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Evolution Of The Condom

Prior to the modern era, many of the most effective contraceptives evolved, rather than appearing suddenly as the result of an invention. The development and evolution of the condom is an example of a device that was present for hundreds of years, changing in function and manufacture to fit the times and needs of its users.

Contemporary condoms are used widely for contraception and to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease. Initially, condoms were developed for other reasons. Among the earliest wearers were the ancient Egyptians, who wore them as protection against Schistosoma, a type of parasite spread through water. Condoms were also worn as decoration or signs of rank in various cultures.

Condoms emerged as weapons against sexually transmitted disease in Renaissance Europe of the sixteenth century, when epidemics of a virulent form of syphilis swept through Europe. Gabriele Fallopio (1523-1562), an Italian anatomist who discovered the Fallopian tube, advised men to use a linen condom to protect against venereal disease.

By the eighteenth century, condoms were made of animal membrane. This made them waterproof and more effective as birth control devices. Condoms acquired a host of nicknames, including the English riding coat, instruments of safety, and prophylactics. The great lover Casanova (1725–1798) described his use of condoms "to save the fair sex from anxiety." The Industrial Revolution transformed the condom once again. In 1837, condom manufacturers took advantage of the successful vulcanization of rubber, a process in which sulfur and raw latex were combined at a high temperature. This enabled manufacturers to make a cheaper yet durable product.

In the 1960s and 1970s, many women turned to modern medical contraceptives such as IUDs and birth control pills. However, by the 1980s, condoms experienced another resurgence due to the emergence of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and the discovery that condoms were most effective in preventing its transmission.

Currently, condoms—along with sterilization—are among the most common contraceptive used by Americans. In 1995, that number was 20.4%, or approxiately 60 million, up from 13.2%, or 57.9 million, in 1988. A total of 12% of women who used condoms for contraception experienced accidental pregnancy in the first year of use in 1994.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Condensation to CoshContraception - An Ancient Interest, A Controversial Practice, Evolution Of The Condom, Modern Times, The Pill And Its Offspring