Karl van den Broeck

Doctor Ferdinand Peeters. The Real Father of the Pill


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978 94 6371 300 9

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The story of doctor Ferdinand Peeters (1918-1998) and his role in the development of the pill has held Belgium in thrall for almost a decade. It is time to introduce the real father of the contraceptive pill to the rest of the world.

After years of research, Belgian journalist Karl van den Broeck concluded that not the American Gregory Pincus was the inventor of the pill. His prototype had so many adverse effects that it wasn’t a viable option in the long term. It was the Belgian doctor Ferdinand Peeters who, in 1959-1960, created the first clinically applicable contraceptive pill: Anovlar. It was this pill that set the standard for all future pills to follow.

Ferdinand – Nand – Peeters was a devout Catholic and during an audience with pope John XXIII, he urged that the church should sanction the use of the Pill. But when Paul VI decided in 1968 that birth control other than the practice of periodic abstinence would remain forbidden, doctor Peeters didn’t breathe a word about his role in the development of the pill. Even his family was barely aware of it.

In The Real Father of the Pill, Karl van den Broeck tells the long hidden story behind this invention, a story of innovation and threats, of grateful women and papal ambivalence. With this book doctor Peeters is finally given the recognition he deserves.

This book includes the documentary The Real Father of the Pill. More information can be found in the book.

Praise and attention (dutch edition):

Prof. Dr. Jean-Jacques Amy, former chief editor of The European Journal for Contraception and Reproductive Health

“Nand Peeters, what a guy! I sure would have liked to have known him better!”

Inge Schelstraete in De Standaard

“Somewhat to Van den Broeck’s own amazement, the listeners of Radio 1 even elected Anovlar, the Pill ‘Nand’ Peeters helped develop, ‘best Belgian invention of all times’, trumping the saxophone and the praline. But Van den Broeck has provided compelling arguments for that claim in his articles and TV documentary.”

Jimmy Koppen, Humanistisch Vrijzinnige Vereniging

“We can be very brief about this: it is a wonderful book (…) by its multitude of anecdotes, testimonies and it’s very thorough preparatory research, this book comes highly recommended for those who want to discover the forgotten history of something as familiar as ‘the Pill’.”

Hollands Dagblad

“The author’s story about how Peeters developed his Pill in Roman-Catholic Belgium is both captivating and extensive.”


“Van den Broeck’s book is a smooth read and gives insights both in the origin of the compound as in the motives of Peeters for working on it.”

Rik Torfs, rector of the Catholic University of Leuven

“What’s important for mankind is ‘une vie courageuse’. This courage has nothing to do with hara-kiri, with daredevilry or with climbing the barricades for one’s own aggrandizement. What it is, is the continued, courageous search for the right path and finding it in the place where you happen to stand, in Turnhout, of all places, in the late Fifties, at a time when the pill is about to materialize and ecclesiastical morals are teetering, without striving for glory but without fear. That is what Nand Peeters has done and what has been described so fantastically well in this book.”

Griet Cnudde, lawyer, in her laudation for Nand Peeters during the election of ‘The Best Belgian Invention’ on Radio 1

“I can’t believe that our fantastic Belgian inventor was ashamed of his invention, even though – in my view – he made the most sublime discovery ever..”

Karl van den Broeck is a journalist, who has worked for the Flemish newspaper De Morgen for almost twenty years as, among others, editor in charge of culture and books. From 2005 until 2011 he was chief editor of the weekly Knack. Since 2014 he is chief editor of Apache.be, a news site dedicated to investigative journalism. He is the author of the non-fiction novel Why I want to save the Indians and children’s book The bird in my hair. He lives in Turnhout, the town where Dr. Ferdinand Peeters worked and died.

ISBN: 9789463713009


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Review, De Wereld Morgen/Uitpers, oktober 2018