"I Love Science" lady really did love science


Earlier this week I posted a modified version of this photo, captioned to say "I Fucking Love Science!" by a poster at I Can Has Cheezburger.

Now, thanks to the Life magazine archives, I can tell you a little about what's really going on in that shot. The photo was taken by Wallace Kirkland in 1954. The original caption that went with the photo read:

Mrs. Jane Dill, four months pregnant, reacts to the news that she is carrying a baby girl, Northbrook, Illinois, 1954. She had just taken a test, administered by the unidentified man in the lab coat, by placing a wafer soaked in a secret formula on her tongue."

I've never heard anything about prenatal gender screening happening this way. And a quick search didn't turn up much, either. Do any of you know anything about this test? What was it looking for? How accurate was it?

Thanks to Benedict and Brian Cosgrove at Life.com!


  1. Come now, it’s a secret. They’re not going to make it easy for you to figure out. Perhaps a FOIA request is in order.

  2. well, a “quick” search turned up that Jane is probably 33 in that photo and while she may not live in Northbrook, she lives nearby at 90 years old. I got the phone number, perhaps I should just call her and ask?

  3. Perhaps it wasnt definitely a girl until she put the secret formula infused wafer in her mouth…

  4. the test is 100% accurate, but its use is being suppressed by Big Ultrasound and their co-conspirators, the amniocentesis lobby.

  5. I found this link: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3468302043.html

    Which was pretty informative on a few things I didn’t know. However, only mentioned this for the pregnancy test: “In 1952 Gustav William Rapp of the Loyola University School of Dentistry and Garwood Richardson of the Northwestern University Medical School developed a saliva test they said could predict the sex of an unborn child with nearly 100 percent accuracy.”

    Back to investigating…

  6. I love the face you can barely see the doc is making too- he is totally digging how pumped she is=)
    It looks like they did the chemical works right in front of her too; I wish they still did that to some degree. Honestly, I’d love to see how all our test stuff gets processed while we wait(centrifuges! what fun!). Glazed walls, please.

    1. Her birthday was March 19, 1921. That would make her 33 in 1954. Quite possible. The woman in your link had 4 children.

      I am surprised at the wording on the caption here, however. In 1954, a married woman would have been referred to as “Mrs. John Dill” unless she were divorced or widowed.

  7. But that scientist guy isn’t unidentified! The original ad has him named as Charles Welbert of Chicago, IL. :)

  8. I’m inclined to say there was no test. From what I can tell, a test in the mid 50s would rely on testing levels of human chorionic gonadotropin. However, a brief search seems to indicate that HCG concentrations in saliva don’t vary with pregnancy.

    If it was real at all, based on the year it COULD have been a very early human trial of radioimmunoassays for HCG; however, it would have required a LOT more equipment, and once again there’s the issue of HCG in saliva not being a useful test. This might explain why it’s a “secret” solution.

    The cynical bastard in me says that they put a wafer loaded with a pH sensitive dye on her tongue and said “Hooray you’re pregnant” when it changed color.

  9. I, too, have pulled faces like that when a wafer with ‘secret formula’ has been put under my tongue…
    I fucking LOVE chemists…

  10. I thought she was screaming because the gray pingpong ball thing was burrowing into her ear.

  11. If the mathematical equation is simply to find one of two possible answers, then you have a “100% chance of being 50% right”…???

    So if a penny’s head = female and it’s tail = male, you’d get the same results?

  12. The saliva test never caught on because male scientists were having more fun making women pee in cups or on sticks…

  13. I’m guessing it’s 50% accurate – but with a 100% money-back guarantee if they get it wrong. They keep half the money, which more than covers the cost of a box of saltines, a lab coat, and some nice stationary, and everyone’s happy!

  14. a test, administered by the unidentified man in the lab coat

    Aha! Was she blindfolded for the test? What was the ‘wafer’ made of?

  15. I think this early research led to the discovery of a well known portable music device…

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