The world’s first “test tube baby”, Louise Brown, was born shortly before midnight in Oldham and District General Hospital on 25 July 1978.
Her birth was the outcome of inspired, sustained and arduous research over more than 10 years by P. C. Steptoe (Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, General Hospital, Oldham) and R. G. Edwards (University Physiology Laboratory, Cambridge). Weighing 5lb 12oz (2.61 kg) the baby was delivered by caesarean section because her mother, Lesley Brown, was suffering from toxaemia.
Steptoe and Edwards reported the clinical details of the successful outcome of the fertilisation and pregnancy in a letter to The Lancet 1978, ii, p. 366. The demonstration that a human oocyte, fertilised in vitro, can, after transfer to the uterus, so develop as to become a healthy baby, transformed the treatment of human infertility and brought benefits to countless couples. It also opened the door to a raft of ethical problems as techniques became increasingly sophisticated and reliable.
For a fuller account of the struggle, see www.nhshistory.net