Patrick Steptoe, in vitro fertilisation, test tube baby
[test tube babies, 1978]
Robert Edwards, test tube babies, 1978

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Patrick Steptoe & Robert Edwards
" test tube babies " 1978

In our original presentation about the work of Professor Lord Robert Winston we fell in with an error of fact that seems to have become current. This error attributes to Lord Winston a key role in the 'generation' of the first test tube baby in 1978.

Having been informed of this error we feel bound to help to see that credit is given where credit is due and present the following letter written by an Oxford academic to the Physiology News in the spring of 2003 in order to more fully comment upon this issue.

John Clarke

Department of Zoology, Oxford University

Dear Editor,

The Spring 2003 issue of Physiology News (50, 21) has an interview with Professor Robert Winston by Bill Parry. The first paragraph begins: ' I was just nine years old in 1978, the year Professor Robert Winston and his team created the world 's first " test tube baby "'.

I was astonished to read this! It is untrue! The first 'test tube' baby, born on 25 July 1978, was not the result of the work of Professor Winston and his team, but the outcome of the inspired, sustained, arduous, underfunded and even unfunded 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).

How the outstanding, benevolent, clinical research of Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards could be totally ignored in this extraordinary fashion remains to be disclosed. They announced the successful outcome of the fertilisation and pregnancy in The Lancet 1978, ii, p. 366. An excellent account of their work is given in Human in vitro fertilization, by Jennifer Gunning and Veronica English (Dartmouth 1993, ISBN 1 85521 347 8). The demonstration by Steptoe and Edwards that a human oocyte, fertilised in vitro, can, after transfer to the uterus, so develop as to become a healthy baby, has transformed the treatment of human infertility and brought unimagined benefits to countless couples.


Stephen Pinker
The Blank Slate
Stephen Hawking
Black Holes
Robert Winston
Human Instinct
Desmond Morris
Naked Ape
Konrad Lorenz
Niko Tinbergen
David Attenborough
Life on Earth


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