20/05/2012 10:27 BST | Updated 23/05/2012 08:49 BST

100 Years of Innovation: The Pill

The year was 1960 and the contraceptive pill had been approved in the USA, sowing the seeds of a sexual revolution.

After extensive testing by biologist Dr Gregory Pincus and other scientists on Haitian and Puerto Rican women, the pill was found to successfully inhibit pregnancy by copying the effects of the hormones oestrogen and progestyrone on the body.

Introduced in Britain a year later and only available to married couples, the number of women who used it as a contraceptive rose sharply from 50,000 in 1962 to one million by the start of the 70s.

Now, more than 100m women worldwide use the contraceptive pill, with almost 12m women in the US alone taking it each day.

Described as one of the major medical advances of the 20th century and a precursor to women’s liberation, the pill was not only responsible for the subsequent swinging sixties, but also for numerous health benefits that have helped to prevent ovarian, womb and colon cancer as well as breast disease and ovarian cysts.

A sign of just how much the pill had empowered the female sex in less than 10 years was evident in 1967, when Time magazine featured a cover with the pill representing the female sex through a mocked-up scientific symbol. A real groundbreaking achievement, It’s amazing how something so small and cheap can allow people to control their own lifestyle with ease.