Urine collection by Serono, 1960s

Excerpt from a promotional film on fertility drugs produced by the Italian pharmaceutical company Serono, demonstrating the early postmenopausal urine collection campaign. Date unknown. Source: Merck “Corporate History” Archives/Serono Collection, Darmstadt.

Project (2015-)

Urine to Gold: The Problem of Sterility in the Age of Plenty

Bodily waste became central to scientific research and practice after World War I. Taking urine as its main substance, and infertility as a central problem, the project looks at this unexplored process. I examine the development of sex endocrinology, and the ways in which urine became the field's leading resource and research material. More specifically, I ask how human, equine, and bovine urine was turned from waste into a promising fertility drug. The project pays particular attention to a circle of European gynecologists, agriculturists, and hormone researchers who settled in Palestine in the 1930s, and attempted to find solutions to fertility problems among settlers and their animals. As a result of such efforts to overcome infertility, urine connected human and animal bodies, and scientific institutions to the booming pharmaceutical industry. Its flows offered a solution to the limitations of the body, but at the same time, posed a threat to the integrity of bodies, and to the status of the scientists who worked with them.