As a form of male birth control, vasectomies began during World War II. In the 1950s, India was the first country to perform vasectomies on a national scale.

(Image Description: Mondino de Luzzi, "Lesson in Anatomy," originally published in Anatomia corporis humani, 1493. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine. Original uploader was Dr. Manuel at de.wikipedia.)

(Image Description: Nederlands – Portret van Reinier de Graaf. Circa 1670. Source: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen)

(Image Description: English – Jean Casimir Félix Guyon (21 July 1831 – 2 August 1920). Circa 1880s.)

History of Vasectomy

  • Herophilus (335B.C – 280BC) was the first to provide an account of the male testes, epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicles, and spermatic artery and vein.
  • Rufus of Ephesus (late first century AD) was the second to mention the vas deferens in one of the first known books of anatomic nomenclature, where he called it the poroi spermatikoi in its Greek translation.
  • It was an anatomist from Bologna, Mondino dei Liuzzi (1275 – 1327) that is credited with naming the Vas Deferens (vas, duct + in deferens, present participle or deferre, to carry away).
  • Regnier de Graaf (1641 – 1673) is given credit for the first detailed description and experimental work on the vas deferens. In his book "De Vivorum Organis Generationi Inservientibus" describing his animal experiments, de Graaf "firmly bound the vas deferens of one testicle in a dog or some other animal before coitus" and then observed "the tubules of the testicle fill with seminal matter in such a way that anyone at all can perceive them."
  • Sir Astley Cooper, in the beginning of the 19th century, found that ligation of the dog's vas deferens, unlike ligation of the testicular artery and vein, does not produce a "gangrened and sloughed" testicle.

Clinical use of vasectomy can be traced back to the 1880s, where it was a method along with castration for the treatment of an enlarged prostate and its associated symptoms.

  • The earliest reference to the section of vasa deferentia, as an alternative procedure to castration to achieve prostatic atrophy, was by Felix Guyon in 1885.
  • Reginald Harrison performed more than 100 vasectomies between 1893 and 1900 for an enlarged prostate. He was also probably the first to notice the reconnection of the divided portion of the vas deferens. "It was found six months after a portion of one of the vasa had been excised and the ends ligatured in a loop that the divided ends had reunited and the continuity and use of the duct has been reestablished."
  • In his 1920 book "Rejuvenation Through the Experimental Revitalization of the Aging Puberty Gland", Eugen Steinach announced he had rejuvenated a senile male rat with vasoligation and that the technique can be used on humans, a so-called rejuvenation vasectomy procedure.
  • Thousands of Steinach operations were performed in the United States and around the world. The New York Times wrote: "Dr. Steinach Coming to Make Old Young". Of notable patients to receive the Steinach operation were Sigmund Freud and W.B. Yeats.
  • The procedure was in use until the late 1940s, in which the popularity of 'rejuvenation by vasectomy' gradually declined after the isolation of testosterone in 1935.

(Text Reference for all Material: Sheynkin, Yefim R. History of Vasectomy. Urol Clin N. Am 36 (2009) 285 – 294)