Nowadays women can buy a pregnancy test from any drug store and upload the results to the Internet within minutes, but it wasn’t always that easy.
In the ultimate #throwbackthursday move, we’re looking back on the first home pregnancy test ever invented: the Predictor, a test kit which was recently highlighted by the Smithsonian. Patented in 1971 but not released for purchase until years later (the first US ads for the kit were released in 1978), the Predictor took two hours to get results. Cringing at the thought of waiting two nail-biting hours? Before then, a woman’s only option was to make a doctor’s appointment, provide a urine sample and wait up to two weeks (!) for an answer. (One strategy involved doctors injecting a woman’s urine sample into an animal in the hopes of detecting hCG, the pregnancy hormone.)
The genius behind the Predictor is Margaret Crane, who was a freelance graphic designer for a pharmaceutical company when inspiration struck. During a visit to the laboratory, she saw test tubes suspended over a mirrored surface. These test tubes, she was told, were actually pregnancy tests. They held reagents which, when mixed with pregnant women’s urine, produced a red ring at the base of the tube — which was then reflected in the mirror. (Think of the red ring as the predecessor to the little plus sign.) She set out to create her own prototype that women could use in the comfort of their own homes, containing a dropper, a vial of reagents, a rack and a mirror.
“A woman should have the right to be the first to know if she was pregnant, and not have to wait weeks for an answer," Crane explained to a curator at Bonhams, an auction house that will soon auction off the original 1968 prototype.