Pregnancy Test Developer Zondek Is Born
Bernhard Zondek in the 1950s. (credit: Central Zionist Archives)

July 29, 1891

Bernhard Zondek, the obstetrician-gynecologist who creates one of the first reliable pregnancy tests, is born in Wronke, Germany, now in Poland.

Zondek moves to Berlin for his medical studies and earns his degree in 1919 at the age of 28. He works in obstetrics and gynecology in Berlin until 1933, when he loses his job for being Jewish after Adolf Hitler takes power. Zondek moves to Stockholm, Sweden, in an unsuccessful search for work free from religious discrimination, then immigrates to Mandatory Palestine in 1934. He begins a career with the Hebrew UniversityHadassah Medical School and Hospital, working in hormone research. He becomes a professor emeritus at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in 1961.

Zondek and Jewish colleague Selmar Aschheim in 1928 develop one of the first effective pregnancy tests, known as the A-Z test. The breakthrough comes after the discovery of hormones in the human body and the function of the pituitary gland. The A-Z test detects a hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin, associated with pregnancy in urine. The original test uses a mouse; later versions use rabbits, leading to the phrase “the rabbit died” when a woman learns she is pregnant.

Zondek dies in 1966 at age 75 in New York while conducting research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.