Martha Espinosa

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Duke University

2021 to 2022
Research Fellow

The Science of Family Planning: Mexico’s “Demographic Explosion,” Contraceptive Technologies, and the Power of Expert Knowledge

This project studies the joint efforts of Mexican doctors, economists, chemists, and demographers who were concerned with Mexico’s “demographic explosion” in the mid-20th century. These experts formed alliances with international foundations and pharmaceutical companies to produce knowledge about the consequences of population growth and develop contraceptives in Mexico between 1950 and 1970, a period in which the government maintained a pronatalist and antiimperialist stance. This research demonstrates how local professionals collaborated with agents from abroad and created a body of scientific knowledge that influenced national policymaking. Moreover, this project shows that such Mexican experts became key actors in developing and testing the birth control pill. By focusing on Mexico’s case, this work decentralizes the traditional narrative of Global Northerners as engines of scientific progress, and unveils the myriad ways in which Mexican professionals influenced their peers in the Global North.