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Dalton, John Call, Prize essay on the corpus luteum of menstruation and pregnancy, 1851. Philadelphia: T.K. and P.G. Collins.

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Corpus Luteum 1851: Part 1 - Corpus Luteum of Menstruation | Part 2 - Corpus Luteum of Pregnancy | Part 3 - Observations on Animals | Plates
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Prize Essay On The Corpus Luteum Of Menstruation And Pregnancy


John. C. Dalton, Jr., M. D.

(Extracted from the Transactions of the American Medical Association.)

Philadelphia: T. K. And P. G. Collins, Printers. 1851.




There exists among medical writers at the present day a very confused idea with regard to the corpus luteum. Notwithstanding the endless controversies that have been carried on respecting its origin, growth, and structure, there is still a great diversity of opinion on all these points, even among those who have personally devoted their attention to the matter ; and for the general reader it would certainly be impossible, from the various accounts which have been published, to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. These contradictory opinions prevailed not only in the earlier epochs, when Haller[1] denied positively that corpora lutea were ever to be found in virgin females, and when Meckel[2] considered them as glandular structures, destined to secrete a sort of "fluide generateur," or female semen ; but even at the present day, when so much additional light has been thrown on the whole history of generation, a similar diversity exists ; and the corpus luteum is now described by different authors as a development of the outer and of the inner membrane of the Graafian vesicle, as a deposit between the two membranes, and as a growth external to both. Perhaps the most debatable question of all relates to its connection with conception and pregnancy. At an earlier period, this was simply a question whether corpora lutea ever existed in the ovaries, except as a consequence of impregnation : some writers, with Haller, denying the possibility of such an occurrence, while others asserted that they had frequently observed them in virgin animals and unmarried women. In later times, however, it became a question of the possibility of establishing a distinction between true and/a?sg corpora lutea; i. e., those which resulted from impregnation, and those which owed their origin to some other cause. Notwithstanding these differences, however, it has been always reducible to a single very interesting and important inquiry, viz., whether, from the existence of a " corpus luteum" in the ovary, it can with certainty be inferred that impregnation has taken place.

Among those who considered the corpus luteum as necessarily connected with impregnation, many, like Haller and Meckel, had no conception of the spontaneous discharge of ova during the season of heat in the lower animals, and at the period of menstruation in the human female ; a process which has recently been more or less generally recognized as a regular and natural function. Consequently, they regarded the corpus luteum as only resulting from sexual intercourse, or, at least, from some extraordinary excitement of the generative system. William Hunter, in his plates of the human gravid uterus, gives drawings of the corpus luteum as an acknowledged and indubitable accompaniment of pregnancy alone.

John Haighton,[3] in a paper on this subject in the Philosophical Transactions, comes to the following conclusion: "I may then say that no corpora lutea exist in virgin animals ; and that, whenever they are found, they furnish incontestable proofs that impregnation either does exist, or has preceded." He does not, therefore, recognize any distinction between corpora lutea, nor the possibility of any discharge of ova independent of sexual intercourse. He unconsciously, however, himself furnishes evidence that such discharge may take place, in his various experiments in which the oviducts were divided before and after coition ; corpora lutea being found in the ovaries in both instances. "We should expect, he says, " in the one case to find the full effects of impregnation, and in the other no traces of it would be seen. Instead of which, the procreative actions (formation of corpora lutea) are no further advanced where there has been an opportunity for the passage of the semen, than in those cases where its passage has been impossible." He attempts to explain this apparent contradiction by supposing that the ovary is excited to the expulsion of the ovum by " consent of parts;" the stimuhis of the seminal fluid in the uterus being sufficient to cause the rupture of a Graafian vesicle, although its passage to the ovaryhas been interrupted. It apparently does not occur to him that the assumed connection betvreen the corpus liiteum and a preceding coition is entirely without proof; and that, without this assumption, there would have been no discrepancy in the appearances which he is at so much pains to reconcile.

Cruikshank[4] also relates an instance, in the human subject, in which the rupture of a Graafian vesicle was not improbably quite independent of coitus, without in the least suspecting the true nature of the case. " I also have," he says, "in my possession the uterus and ovaries of a young woman who died with the menses upon her; the external membranes of the ovaria are burst at one place ; whence, I suspect, an ovum escaped, descended through the tubes to the uterus, and was washed ofi" by the menstrual blood." The writer, however, as may be gathered from the context, evidently supposes that the escape of this ovum was in consequence of coitus ; since, throughout his paper, he considers the occurrence of a corpus luteum as direct proof of impregnation.

Velpeauf speaks of the corpus luteum as a growth taking place "after coition," without alluding to the possibility of its formation under any other circumstances.

Montgomery[5] takes much the same view of the matter. He speaks of the maturation and discharge of an ovum, and the accompanying growth of a corpus luteum as taking place "on the occurrence of conception;" and, though he acknowledges that bodies resembling corpora lutea may be produced in the ovary by other causes, yet the true corpus luteum, resulting from impregnation, may, according to him, be always distinguished from them. "Such," he says (p. 240), "is the result of my own observations on a very large number of bodies, both of women and animals ; and in no one instance did I ever find a true corpus luteum, except as the product of conception." He gives some marks by which the true corpora lutea are to be distinguished from the false, but his description, in this respect, must be regarded as somewhat imperfect. The yellow matter of the corpus luteum he considers to be surrounded by the outer membrane of the Graafian vesicle, while its cavity is lined by the inner, it being enclosed between the two.

Dr. Gross[6] recognizes the occasional existence of false corpora lutea, which, he says, may be produced without coitus, in consequence of "strong sexual excitement." He concludes, however, principally following in the track of Montgomery, that the true corpus luteum is good evidence of pregnancy.

Dr. Edward J. Seymour[7], though he acknowledges that corpora lutea occasionally exist without impregnation, inclines to the opinion that, as a general rule, they are good evidence of its having taken place. "From these premises, comparisons, and observations," he says (p. 32), "my opinion has been formed that corpora lutea are the result of the change which takes place in the ovarium by the bursting and discharge of the ovum — occurring rarely in virgin animals, because the bursting of an ovum is not a frequent but only a possible occurrence, but always following impregnation, and diminishing as gestation proceeds."

Dr. Blundell[8] expresses himself on this point with great reserve. He thinks that, in some of the lower animals, a corpus luteum, " not to be distinguished from that of impregnation," may be produced without sexual intercourse, and merely by great nervous excitement; and he is not prepared peremptorily to decide the question even with regard to the human female ; but considers, nevertheless, a " fabiform corpus luteum, with an . asteriskal cavity," &c. &c., as strong presumptive proof of impregnation.

J. Miiller[9] regards the discharge of ova as a consequence of sexual intercourse, and must therefore hold the same opinion with regard to corpora lutea. " In mammalia," he says, "the separation of the ovum from the ovary seems to be dependent on the act of impregnation. It has, it is true, been stated that cicatrices of the ovaries, resulting from the escape of ova, have been seen in the bodies of virgins ; but this is certainly no ordinary occurrence."

Dr. Carpenter[10] adopts principally Montgomery's description of the corpus luteum, and his opinion that it is a good sign of impregnation. He has, however, no original observations on the subject. He also regards as " not improbable," the theory that ova are matured and discharged, at each menstrual period, independently of fecundation ; though he thinks, with Dr. Barry, that it is more likely that the matured ova retrograde and become absorbed, without having been discharged.

Dr. Robert Lee[11]admits a distinction between true and false corpora lutea, or those connected with impregnation and those arising from other causes. His ideas, liowever, regarding the precise process which takes place in menstruation do not seem to be very clearly announced; for, although he considers it probable that about the menstrual period there is a rupture of the Graafian vesicle, he nevertheless denies that an ovum is discharged at this time. "That an ovum," he says, " does not pass from the ovarium during menstruation is evident from the fact that an ovum is never found but as a consequence of impregnation, and that conception does not take place during the menstrual period. "f He describes the yellow matter of the corpus luteum as situated externally to both layers of the Graafian vesicle, without anything interposed between it and the ovarian tissue.

Dr. Robert Paterson has two papers on this subject in the Edinhurgh Medical and Surgical Journal, in the first of which (January, 1840) he gives a somewhat extended notice of the distinguishing marks of "true corpora lutea," i. <?., those consequent on impregnation ; and he concludes that the corpus luteum, provided certain appearances exist, is "undeniable proof that the individual has been pregnant." Dr. Paterson describes the true corpus luteum as deposited between the layers of the Graafian vesicle. The false he considers as arising principally either from (1st) a more or less complete filling of a Graafian vesicle with blood independently of impregnation, or (2d) undefined effusions of blood into the substance of the ovary ; a true apoplexy of the organ. They may, moreover, arise from re-absorption and puckering of a vesicle, or from various morbid deposits. He recognizes the spontaneous discharge of ova only to a limited extent. " The period of menstruation," he says, "is marked by the prominence of one or more of the Graafian vesicles, and by their occasional rupture." A more common occurrence, however, he thinks to be " simple enlargement of a vesicle, the increased quantity of fluid in which becomes afterwards reabsorbed." Dr. P.'s communications are accompanied by a number of observations and coloured drawings, illustrative of the difference between true and false corpora lutea. These, however, do not seem to be quite perfect, as some of his cases, related under the head of "true corpora lutea," are entirely deficient in evidence of impregnation, and in some of his drawings he designates as mere " puckered cysts," &c., what are evidently corpora lutea of menstruation, in a retrograde state.

Dr. Frank Renaud, of Edinburgh, has a highly interesting and valuable paper on this subject in the London and Edinburgh Monthly Journal of Medical Science for August, 1845. The plan of the memoir is somewhat similar to that of Dr. Paterson's, and it gives by far the clearest and most accurate account of true and false corpora lutea that I have anywhere been able to meet with. Dr. R. takes much the same view with Dr. Paterson of the processes connected with menstruation, viz., that "towards each menstrual period the Graafian vesicles become developed," and "sometimes burst." He does not, however, consider this as a regular and natural occurrence ; nor does he describe the false corpora lutea as always connected with menstruation.

It will be observed that a certain proportion of the above writers speak of the corpus luteum as a sign of pregnancy, without mentioning its particular marks or distinctive characters ; while those who have given a more detailed description of it mention also certain other bodies, false corpora lutea, which they consider as occasional morbid or extraordinary growths, varying in their nature, and accidental in their formation.

On the other hand, are a crowd of observers, who, in the earlier times, met with " corpora lutea" in virgin women or in virgin animals. Malpighi, Valisnieri, Santorini, Brugnone, Bertrandi, are all cited by later writers as having borne testimony to this fact. Neither have others been Avanting, in modern times, to sustain a similar view.

Dr. John Burns,[12] indeed, expresses himself somewhat doubtfully in regard to it. " It has been conjectured by some," he says, " that the corpus luteum may be produced even without sexual intercourse ; but this point I cannot determine. He does not, however, speak of the corpus luteum as positively existing in company with any other uterine production than a foetus or hydatids. " The appearances during life, or after death, which occur from a miscarriage, may also arise from the expulsion of hydatids ;" in which case "even a distinct corpus luteum may be discovered." Dr. Burns does not here make any distinction between those hydatids which evidently result from a degeneration of the ovum, and those which are supposed to constitute a true morbid production of the uterus ; he appears, however, to consider them all as belonging to the former class.

Sir Everard Home, in his two papers on corpora lutea in the Philosopliical Transactions,[13] denies that there is any difference between the corpora lutea resulting from impregnation, and those which are produced independently of any such influence. He gives a very confused and unsatisfactory account of some observations which he adduces " in proof" that corpora lutea are not bodies formed in consequence of the discharge of ova, but are the glandular structures in which the ova are produced ; that they are " formed previous to and independent of sexual intercourse ; and that, when they have fulfilled their purpose of forming ova, they are afterward removed by absorption, whether the ova are impregnated or not." He even goes so far as to say that physiologists have been led into the error of " mistaking a corpus luteum in which an ovum is forming for that which belonged to the ovum of the present conception, and which, at the time of delivery, has disappeared;" and that it will be found that " all the preparations of corpora lutea, from the ovaria of women who die in childbed, actually belong to this new ovum, not yet completely formed." It is impossible, however, to discover in either of the papers anything like " proofs" of these extraordinary assertions ; unless, indeed, a drawing may be considered as such Avhich he gives of a corpus luteum, imbedded in the substance of an ovary, and containing a very dubious-looking body, which the writer calls an ovum, but which is entirely unlike the ova, as seen by other observers, while yet contained within the ovary. The accuracy of his logical inferences may be estimated from the fact that he regards the presence of a hymen as proof positive of virginity.

Sir Everard Home admits that ova do pass from the ovaries anteriorly to impregnation, but does not seem to think this an occurrence which takes place in the human female at any regular period. He denies explicitly that it has any connection with menstruation ; for, after relating the case of a girl who died seven days after an expected menstrual period, and in whom the ovary was found to contain two "corpora lutea," and the uterus an ovum of minute size, he says, "It is clear, from the case which has just been stated, that such (menstrual) periods are totally unconnected with the formation of the ovum, the process of its leaving the ovary, or its impregnation."

Dr. Dewees* adopts, without discussion. Sir Everard Home's view of the matter.

Dr. Gooch,[14] though he at first speaks of the corpus luteum as formed from the rupture of a Graafian vesicle "after conception," does not allow that the two are necessarily connected as cause and effect. "Some persons," he says (p. 87), "will pretend to say, from an inspection of the ovary, how many conceptions have taken place, but corpora lutea have been seen in virgins." This statement, however, is entirely unaccompanied by proofs, or by any detailed description of the bodies in question.

Boivin and Duges, in their treatise on Maladies of the Uterus,| give no very clear description of corpora lutea, nor any decisive opinion as to their nature. It is merely stated that they have often been found in " unmarried" females. In the atlas, there is one figure of an ovary, showing the external cicatrix of a corpus luteum, but no internal view.

T. Wharton Jones[15] recognizes the periodical discharge of ova from the ovary, but does not consider this occurrence as ordinarily resulting in the formation of a corpus luteum. He ingeniously accounts for the supposed fact that every such discharge is " not followed by a corpus luteum, as follows: —

I. The regular and periodical discharge of ova takes place without increased action, and consequently leaves little or no trace.

II. Coitus hurries the maturation and discharge of ova by inflammation and exudation, which result afterwards in the corpus luteum.

III. When coitus coincides with the regular maturation of a Graafian vesicle, no corpus luteum is formed.

He acknowledges, however, that this is "physiological speculation," and says that, practically, "it would be rash and unwarrantable for any one to pronounce, from the occurrence of a corpus luteum in the ovaries, that coitus had taken place."

• System of Midwifery. Philad. 1826. V

Dr. Robert Knox[16] also thinks that ova "may often" be discharged from virgin ovaries, corpora lutea being formed in consequence ; but he does not look upon this as an established fact. Though he institutes some comparisons between the true and false corpus luteum, the distinctions which he lays down are very imperfect, relating chiefly or entirely to the comparative size of the bodies ; and from his observations and details he finally draws the following conclusion, viz., that "there is no distinctive character by which the corpus luteum (of impregnation) may be distinguished from the miniature (or false) corpus luteum."

The above details will serve to show how various are the opinions, and how contradictory the statements, which have been brought forward by medical writers on this subject. When, however, it became more perfectly established, from the recent researches of physiologists, that a regular and periodical maturation and discharge of ova take place, not only in the oviparous animals, but also in all classes of mammalia, entirely independent of fecundation, and even of coition, an additional and almost decisive argument seemed to be afforded to the opinion of those who denied that any peculiar appearances were produced in the ovary after fecundation which could be regarded as evidence of that occurrence having taken place. For, if the ovum is matured and expelled from the ovary independently of any external influence, and is only fecundated at the time of its expulsion, or during its passage through the oviduct, how could this later and accidental occurrence have any influence on the ulterior changes in the ruptured Graafian vesicle — changes with which it had no necessary or physiological connection ? It resulted, as was said, not only from analogical inferences, but also from the observation of nature, that the corpus luteum is formed in the ovary, after the discharge of the ovum, in the same regular and uninterrupted manner, whether that ovum becomes subsequently fecundated by the spermatic fluid, or Avhether, as more frequently happens, it rapidly loses its vitality, and is destroyed. Such an apparently superfluous production of ova, destined to perish without ever receiving impregnation, was not without abundant analogy among the lower orders of organized beings. It had been long known that the spawn of fishes wxre expelled by the female, independently of any direct influence from the male ; and that their subsequent fecundation depended entirely on the occurrence of fortuitous circumstances. In the vegetable world, the dioecious plants presented the same phenomenon ; many thousand germs being annually produced by the female individual, of which only a small proportion were destined ever to receive the fructifying influence of the pollen.

Bischoff[17] was among the first who announced this theory in a decisive manner. He was first led to a knowledge of the fact by some appearances which he met with in an experiment on animals in June, 1843, and communicated his discovery in a letter to the French i^cademy on the 17th of July following. He afterwards brought the matter before the public in a more extended form. In this work, Bischoff shows by actual observation that the Graafian vesicles become ruptured without coition, and in the lower animals that the ova enter the oviduct, and proceed toward the uterus. "Now from all these observations," he says (p. 45), "it is quite certain that the ova in mammalia, in the time of heat, no coition taking place, are detached from the ovary, enter the tube, and perish there ; and that corpora lutea are formed in the ovaries just as tJiough coition and fecundation had taken place.

M. Ndgrier[18] has also published a work in which he advances somewhat similar opinions. His book, however, is written for the particular purpose of demonstrating the dependence of the menstrual function on certain periodical changes which take place in the ovary; i. e., the successive maturation and rupture of Graafian vesicles. The spontaneous discharge of ova about the menstrual period is also alluded to by the author, but is not asserted in so distinct and positive a manner as the former proposition. N^grier does not, however, consider the yellow bodies as always produced by the rupture of Graafian vesicles, but supposes the yellow matter to be deposited between the coats of the vesicle at a stage of its development prior to its distension with fluid and final bursting ; the yellow matter, together with the efi"used blood, becoming afterward rapidly absorbed. In this respect, he adopts the views of Sir Everard Home, and, like him, distinguishes two varieties of corpora lutea, viz., the ascending and the retrograde ; or those which are still entire, and in process of development, and those which have already become ruptured.

He imagines, also, with Home, tlie yellow matter to be a source of nutrition, or " a kind of placenta" for the germ.

Negrier recognizes three principal stages of the development of the Graafian vesicles (travail vSsiculaire).

I. The formation of simple, small, globular vesicles, filled with serosity [vesicides primaires).
II. A deposit of gray matter between the walls, accompanied by a folding up of the vesicular parietes, and absorption of the contained fluid {bourses grises).
III. Enlargement of the whole vesicle, alteration of the colour from gray to yellow {vesieules jaunes, or corpora lutea of other writers), renewed secretion of serosity, distension and rupture of the vesicle. Respecting the connection of corpora lutea with impregnation, his opinions are the same as those of Bischoff. " I cannot, however," he says (Avant-propos, p. xv.), " share the opinion of Dr. Paterson, when he makes a distinction between the vesicular cicatrices, of true and false. They are all essentially cicatrices, consequent on the rupture of a perfectly developed vesicle, whether or not there has been any fecundation of the ovum which escaped from it ; and, if the remains of these organs do not always bear a perfect resemblance to each other, it is because the rupture of the vesicle does not always take place in exactly the same manner ; because the blood, effused from the open vessels, is variable in quantity ; and because the delicate membranes of the vesicle are sometimes more extensively lacerated, the yellow matter being, in consequence, more readily dissolved by the extravasated blood, and disappearing as the clot becomes absorbed."

This account, by Negrier, of the development of the Graafian vesicle and formation of the corpus luteum is somewhat complicated, and is, moreover, entirely opposed to the views entertained by most other writers, as well as to those which will be advanced in the present memoir. M. Raciborski,[19] in his work on Spontaneous Ovulation, or the " ponte p6'iodique spontane," adopts the more simple, as well as more probable theory that the corpus luteum is a formation which takes place altogether subsequently to the rupture of the vesicle. That part of his work which relates to ovulation is intended to establish the fact of the independent discharge of ova, and its connection, in the human female, with menstruation. His views, also, lead him to deny the existence of any distinguishing peculiarity in the corpus lutcum of impregnation. " Some authors, he says (p. 511), " have attempted to show a distinction of true and false corpora lutea ; the first of which, according to them, are met with only after a preceding conception. Notwithstanding all the efforts which have been made to establish this distinction, we are far from being prepared to acknowledge it. Numerous observations upon animals have convinced us that, whether the rupture of the follicles is, or is not, accompanied by coitus, or by fecundation, the appearance of the lesions which result is, in both cases, absolutely identical."

But the writer who has treated this subject in the most brilliant, decisive, and convincing manner is, beyond all others, M. Pouchet. His views were first advanced in a memoir published at Paris, in 1842, entitled " Theorie Positive de la Fdcondation." It appeared again, five years later, considerably amplified, and accompanied with elegant illustrations, under the folloAving title : " F. A. Pouchet, Theorie positive de I'ovulation spontande, et de la fecondation des mammiferes et de I'espece humaine : Paris, 1847;" a work which for comprehensiveness of design, brilliancy of style, and energy and conclusiveness of argumentation, has been rarely equalled among the productions of medical literature. In this work, M. Pouchet supports his views by the unconscious testimony of a multitude of earlier writers ; by many observations made by himself both on the human subject and on the lower animals ; and by the analogies of function between various classes of animals, already known to exist, or for the first time demonstrated by himself. He establishes, in the course of his book, the following principal propositions : —

I. That in all classes of mammalia ova are produced spontaneously in the ovaries.
II. That they are expelled spontaneously at regular intervals, independently of coition.
III. That in the human female they are so expelled at each menstrual period ; this period corresponding to the rutting season of animals.
IV. That the ova are, and can be, fecundated only after their expulsion from the ovary ; the various solid membranes, by wdiich they are protected previous to this expulsion, opposing a complete obstacle to the access of the spermatic corpuscles, the actual contact of which is indispensable to the impregnation of the ovum.
V. That in all probability the part where fecundation usually takes place is the cavity of the uterus or the lower part of the Fallopian tube.

The fact announced in the fourtli proposition, viz., that ova can be fecundated only after leaving the ovary, he considers as evident, not only from the interposition of the ovarian integuments between the ova and the spermatozoa, but also from the circumstance that contact with the seminal fluid does not produce the effect of impregnation on immature ova, but only on such as have arrived at a certain degree of development ; and that this maturity and complete development of the unimpregnated ovum correspond in time precisely with its discharge from the Graafian vesicle.

The proofs of the third proposition, that the discharge of ova takes place in women at the menstrual period, are, with him, almost entirely drawn from analogy ; as he gives but few direct observations on the human female bearing on the connection between ovulation and menstruation. These observations consist only of some microscopic observations on the menstrual fluid, which he shows to be entirely analogous to that discharged by mammalia during the season of heat. Strict analogical inferences, however, may he in some cases as reliable as direct observation; and, as the writer himself expresses it, "The difficulties which oppose themselves to observations on this subject, with regard to the human female, compel us here to rely upon analogy ; but in this instance, the analogy is so evident that it is impossible not to acknowledge it."

M. Pouchet's views, however, regarding the corpus luteum are the same with those of Bischoff and Raciborski. "At the time," he says (p. 185), " that physiologists, influenced by entirely theoretical views, believed that ova were expelled only after fecundation, since corpora lutea were occasionally discovered either in women or in animals where no reproduction had taken place, some naturalists pretended that, in these cases, there had been no emission of ova, and that the corpora lutea in question were difi"erent from those which owed their origin to ova capable of impregnation. At the present day, this distinction, which never was anything more than a scholastic subtlety, can no longer have an existence.

" Since, by these labors, the fact of spontaneous ovulation has been demonstrated, it must now be superfluous to point out the futility of the distinction between true and false corpora lutea ; they are all produced by the same processes ; they have all discharged ova before presenting themselves under the aspect which they assume after that occurrence. And whether the ovule which they have expelled docs or docs not become fecundated, whether or not it undergoes the transformation into an embryo, all have, nevertheless, the same form and the same structure.

It is the object of the present paper to shoio that this conclusion of 31. Pouchet is entirely erroneous ; that the corpus luteum of pregnancy is different from the corpus luteum of menstruation ; and that it may, under ordinary circumstances, he readily recognized and distinguished from it.

In the following pages, however, I shall regard the five principal propositions of M. Pouchet as definitely established by the observations and arguments contained in his treatise ; for probably nothing which could be here brought forward would add any very material weight to the evidences there presented.

Nevertheless, the reader will undoubtedly discover, among the following observations, many collateral proofs of the theory of spontaneous ovulation, to which it will not be necessary to direct his attention particularly.

It will readily be comprehended that the difference hereafter to be established between the corpus luteum of menstruation and that of pregnancy is not an essential or fundamental difference. Since the regular and periodical rupture of the Graafian vesicle and discharge of ova, at the time of menstruation, are here recognized, as well as the fact that corpora lutea are always formed in the ovaries as a consequence of such rupture and discharge, the differences alluded to must necessarily be owing only to variations in the subsequent changes in the ruptured vesicle; the most important parts in either case still remaining and preserving their original relations. The principal fact, therefore, to be established in the present memoir may perhaps be more accurately stated as follows : That the presence of a foetus in the uterus induces certain modifications in the growth and progress of the corpus luteum, by which, during a certain period, we can be enabled to decide with certainty that pregnancy has existed ; and that these modifications follow a regular course of progression and retrogression, by which we can estimate, in a proximate manner, the period to which pregnancy had advanced at the time of death.

The importance of this subject, particularly in a medico-legal point of view, is too evident to require notice.

In order to present the necessary facts and arguments to the reader in the most convenient form, the following paper will be divided into three parts.

The first will embrace the history and description of the corpus luteum of menstruation.

The second will contain that of the corpus luteum of pregnancy, a comparison of the two, and an inquiry into the nature of the differences between them.

The third will contain some similar observations on the lower animals, with certain conclusions to be derived therefrom.


  1. First Lines of Physiology, Am. ed., 1803, p. 430.
  2. Manuel d'Anatomie, vol. jii. p. 730.
  3. Phil. Trans., 1797, p. 114
  4. Phil. Trans., 1797, p. 135. f Treatise on Midwifery, Meigs" ed., Philad., 1831.
  5. J W. F. Montgomery, Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy, London 1837.
  6. S. D. Gross, Elements of Pathological Anatomy, Philad. 1845.
  7. Illustrations of some of the Diseases of the Ovaria, London 1830.
  8. J On Diseases of Woman, Philad. ed. 1840.
  9. Miillers Physiology, Philad. ed. 1843.
  10. Principles of Human Physiology, Philad. ed. 1843.
  11. Lectures on Midwifery, London Med. Gazelle, 1842. t Cyclop. Pract. Med. iii. 444.
  12. Midwifery and Diseases of Women, James' ed. 1813.
  13. Phil. Trans. 1817 and 1S19.
  14. Gooch's Midwifery, Pliilad. ed. 1832.
  15. J Heming's Translation, London, 1834. § London Medical Gazette, vol. xxxiv. p. 625.
  16. London Medical Gazette, vol. xxxiii. p. 370.
  17. On the Maturation and Discharge of Ova, independent of Coition ; Oilman's and Tellkampfs Translation, N. Y. 1847.
  18. Recherches Anatomiques et Physiologiques sur les Ovaires dans TEspece Humaine. Paris, 1840.
  19. M. A. Raciborski, de la Puberte and de TAge critique, Paris, 1S44.

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Dalton, John Call, Prize essay on the corpus luteum of menstruation and pregnancy, 1851. Philadelphia: T.K. and P.G. Collins.

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Corpus Luteum 1851: Part 1 - Corpus Luteum of Menstruation | Part 2 - Corpus Luteum of Pregnancy | Part 3 - Observations on Animals | Plates