The Population Council, World Population Problem, and Contraceptive Studies during the Early Postwar Era

by Yu-ling Huang

Jan 1, 2011
My archival research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) aimed to situate the establishment of the Population Council in the early postwar era when Americans were facing and defining world population growth -- its problems, and potential solutions. My reading of the documents suggests that the population experts from different fields during the 1940s and 1950s had seriously considered a variety of solutions to the rapidly increasing population: the social and economic development, the enhancement of agricultural productivity, the distribution of world population through international migration, and the practices of fertility control. To employ birth control as the effective means for population control required the transformation of both ideas and techniques among scientists, as well as governments. In this research report, I address three of my observations: first, in the mind of leading figures who participated in instituting the Population Council (PC), fertility control had shifted from one of the solutions to the world population problem, to the solution; second, the Medical Division of the Council seemed more interested in contraceptive studies than research on the physiology of human reproduction; third, the 1962 International Conference on the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) was one of the Population Council's efforts for promoting certain contraceptives globally, via its international network and generous funding.
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