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Celebrations have got underway to mark the 40th anniversary of the birth of Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, with the opening of a special IVF-themed exhibition at the Science Museum.
Speaking at the launch of the exhibition – IVF: 6 million babies later – Sally Cheshire CBE, Chair of the HFEA, paid tribute to the work of Professor Sir Robert Edwards, Dr Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy.
Sally said: “It is to these three people that we owe the most, for inventing in vitro fertilisation or IVF, persisting until it succeeded and allowing millions of patients to create their much longed-for families. Louise Brown’s birth 40 years ago was a defining moment in medicine and one that went on to have a huge impact on both the lives of individuals and society.”
The exhibition explores the remarkable story of IVF, from the opposition, uncertainty and challenges faced by the early pioneers, to the latest research in reproductive science today. Visitors will be able to see one of the ‘Oldham notebooks’, as they are known, that record the scientific data collected by Purdy and Edwards between 1969 and 1978, as well as examples of the equipment they used. Over 10 years, the notebooks recorded data for 282 anonymous women but only five pregnancies and two successful births.
The rest of the exhibition shows the worldwide media attention Louise’s birth brought to her family and what the future holds for scientific development and the millions of patients who sadly experience infertility.
Sally adds: “There have been huge advancements in scientific research and medicine over the past 40 years and the UK remains at the forefront of scientific and clinical development in IVF. The 40th anniversary of Louise’s birth is a milestone and we can look forward to an exciting and challenging future as medicine and science allow more people to have the families they want.”
IVF: 6 million babies later is free to visit and open daily from today until November 2018.
Explore the remarkable story of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) from the opposition and immense challenges faced by early pioneers to the latest research today.
Publication date: 20 December 2018
Review date: 20 December 2020