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The history of the test tube baby.

The mother of the first test tube baby

Goodbye to a courageous lady…


6th June 2012 Lesley Brown, the mother of the first IVF – or test tube baby died after a short illness. There is no-one in the field of IVF, both patients and practitioners, who wouldn’t want to thank her for her courage.  Apart from Steptoe and Edwards, the clinical pioneers, she is and will always be the first test-tube mother pioneer.


We can only imagine the risks Lesley Brown cast aside to go through the process:


  • Risks to her own health
  • The risk that embryos created outside the body couldn’t produce normal babies
  • The risk of a backlash for having gone through the ‘immorral’ process
  • The risk of ruining her private life with positive publicity if things went well or with negative publicity if things went badly


But she did it and opened up a new world of medicine.  Thank you Mrs Brown.



In the USA, jealousy over this very British research has always been rife.  Now we hear that the Americans were on their way to beating us Brits to the front line.
A recently published report on the history of IVF suggests that American researchers were developing the same technology, and could have pipped the Brits to the post already in 1973. Of course it is perfectly feasible since Steptoe didn’t invent the laparoscope and many researchers could have been the first. In fact US expert Dr Landrum Shettles was working on IVF technology at about the same time as Steptoe and Edwards. However, the story goes, ethical concerns from the superiors at the hospital, lack of money and will, and politics prevented Dr Shettles from completing his work in time. Finally, when Dr Shettles was probably on the right track, his superior, Dr. Vande Wiele, destroyed the fertilised eggs.



Such is the fear of progress….


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