First IVF Baby

For Delivering a Modern Medical Miracle (Most Influential Projects: #40)


The team that pioneered in vitro fertilization: Robert Edwards, holding Louise Brown, Jean Purdy and Patrick Steptoe


Louise Brown was born 25 July 1978 in England. From all reports, the birth itself was uneventful. But it marked a turning point in treating infertility: Brown was the first child conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF). The technique—in which an egg is fertilized outside the body then implanted in the woman's uterus—was pioneered by British researchers Patrick Steptoe, Robert Edwards and Jean Purdy after a decade of failed attempts and moral quagmires. At the time, the concept of assisted reproduction was denounced on religious, political and scientific fronts. The Vatican issued a formal statement against it. The U.K.'s Medical Research Center refused public funding of the project. And in the United States, lauded scientist James Watson warned a congressional committee that “all hell will break loose” if IVF was successful.

The British team turned to private sponsors to keep their efforts going. When Lesley Brown and her husband volunteered for in vitro in 1977, the project finally moved from theory to execution.

After Louise Brown's birth, demand for IVF skyrocketed, defying controversies and opponents. Today it's estimated that more than 8 million people can trace their origins back to the technology. By 2100, IVF babies or their descendants could account for as much as 3.5 percent of the global population, according to a study from Reproductive BioMedicine Online.

“So many things have changed in the decades that have gone by,” Louise Brown wrote in a U.K. Independent article marking her 40th birthday and the anniversary of IVF. “But the desire for couples to have babies has not.”



Related Content

  • PMI Sponsored Research

    Digitalization as a Game Changer in Project Stakeholder Management member content open

    By Kier, Christof | Huemann, Martina This research work aims to discuss contemporary project stakeholder engagement and examines how digitalization shapes and affects the field.

  • Project Management Journal

    Using Principal–Steward Contracting and Scenario Planning to Manage Megaprojects member content locked

    By Turner, J. Rodney Megaprojects are complex, but people use constructs inappropriate in complex situations for their management, particularly contractual arrangements.

  • Project Management Journal

    A Dynamic Capabilities Model of Innovation in Large Interfirm Projects member content locked

    By Steen, John | Ford, Jerad A. | Verreynne, Martie-Louise The time-bounded nature of large interfirm projects and technical interdependencies constrain innovation.

  • PM Network

    El futuro del aprendizaje member content open

    By Fister Gale, Sarah Más de mil millones de niños en al menos 185 países se vieron afectados por el cierre de escuelas relacionado con la pandemia mundial el año pasado.

  • PM Network

    Fintech en la mira member content open

    By Fister Gale, Sarah Las tasas de adopción de tecnología financiera entre los consumidores casi se han duplicado cada dos años desde 2015, y el ritmo solo se aceleró durante la pandemia.