How Long has Semen Been Evaluated For? The Origins of Semen Analysis

Read below to find out more about the history of semen analysis and semen testing as part of fertility evaluation for men

Although the knowledge surrounding sperm began in the 17th century, the mechanisms of human fertilization were not fully understood until after the discovery of the ovum in 1827. Even after this discovery, it took over a century for semen analysis to become available clinically because of the lack of methodologies to assess sperm characteristics.

And while semen had not been entirely understood until the 20th century, philosophers had been questioning the role of semen in human reproduction since antiquity. While their hypotheses were largely unsupported, they laid the research for more concrete research beginning in the 17th century.

The introduction of early microscopes in the late 16th century allowed early scientists to amplify biological images, though nowhere near the scale we can now. Antony van Leeuwenhoek soon after created a microscope that could magnify up to 300 times. Using his microscope, in 1677 scientists performed the first semen analysis.

Much of the time between the 17th century and the standardization of semen analysis in the 1930s was spent trying to understand the purpose and parameters of sperm. More comprehensive studies in the mid-1930s established basic parameters of semen analysis.

Today, semen analysis is based on the World Health Organization (WHO) Manual, which provides reference ranges for sperm parameters like sperm count, motility, and morphology. The first publication of the Manual came out in the 1980s.

Like most other scientific discoveries, our understanding of semen and semen analysis has been hundreds of years in the making. Now, semen analysis is a common part of fertility evaluation in men.