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Time of ovulation in women. By Carl G. Hartman. Baltimore Williams and Wilkins. 1936. Price 3.00. 226 pp. 72 figs

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BOOK REVIEW
TIME O F OVULATION 1N WOMEN. By Carl G. IIartman. Baltimore : Williams and Wilkins. 1936. Price, $3.00. 226 pp., 72 figs.
Direct observations bearing on the relation of ovulation to menstruation have been accumulating during the past 30 years and it has
come to be recognized in technical circles that ovulation tends to be
intermenstrual rather than closely associated with the period of the
flow, as had been taught previously. Scientific interest has centered
chiefly about the question of a conception optimum. The general
public developed a keen interest in the matter as soon as it was pointed
out that a restricted period for ovulation had as a corollary, a period
of infertility. The greatest factor in such a ‘safe period’ is the
variability in the time interval between the onset of menstruation and
ovulation. To the biologist such variability is one of the most fundamental and intriguing characteristics of vital phenomena and it has
often furnished clues to the solution of basic problems. To the
propagandist variability is a stumbling block and a n annoyance to be
argued away or minimized. Hartman’s critical reveiw of the evidence comes as a timely check to the dogmatic pronouncements which
have been broadcast recently as to the time of ovulation i n the menstrual cycle. The significant difference between the results of the
author’s controlled experiments and the conclusions from human data
is well presented in his figure 69. While he is inclined to believe that
ovulation is restricted to a definite period in the human cycle he
points out that we are not yet in it position to say what the chances
are that conception will follow coitus practiced before the eighth or
after the twenty-first days of the cycle. The problem is conceived as
being primarily one of ovulation time ; it is stated categorically that
the life of the ovum after it leaves the ovary and of the sperm after
ejaculation is very brief. The latter statement would seem to be
based on observations as yet unpublished since data from species in
which mating is strictly limited do not necessarily apply to primates.
The book consists of a series of reviews of evidence, on the time of
ovulation. They are grouped under various headings : Women’s
introspection, cyclic fluctuations in sex hormones and in the motility
of uterus and tube, observations made at laparotomies, histologic data
from uterus and vagina, evidence from young ova and embryos with
369
370
BOOK REVIEW
coital histories and finally the observations on the great macaque
colony of the Carnegie Laboratory of Embryology. While the needs
of the practicing physician have particularly been kept in mind, the
book can be understood by anyone who has a reading knowledge of
biology. The line drawings and charts are well laid out and tell
an unambiguous story. Many of the photomicrographs are inadequately labelled and they can convey little or nothing even t o the
average physician. The worker in the field will appreciate analyses
such as that of Schroder’s observations on the uterine mucous membrane and will find but little to criticise. IIe may say that the very
meager evidence for fluctuations of sex hormone levels in the blood is
given undue weight especially as this is the only type of evidence of
cyclic hormone release which is pertinent. He will say that there
is not much t o justify the suggestion that 25,000 follicles undergo
regression in the human ovary every month; indeed very few are
inclined to believe that there is in primates any extensive new formation of ova after infamy. Attention should be called to the fact that
the credit for observing an increase in peritoneal fluid at ‘midinterval’
(p. 1 6 ) should be given to J. Novak ( ’23).
This book is not simply an ephemeral review of a currently fashionable problem; the judicial marshalling of evidence makes it a document on the present day methods and pitfalls of biologic investigations
which have direct application to human behavior.
GEORGE
W. BARTELYEZ.
The University of Chicago.
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