Manchester celebrates forty years since first test tube baby birth

The world’s first “test tube” baby was conceived by IVF in Greater Manchester, at Dr Kershaw’s Hospital in Royton. Louise Brown was born at Oldham General Hospital forty years ago on 25 July 1978.

The work at Dr Kershaw’s was carried out by Patrick Steptoe, Jean Purdy and Bob Edwards. Professor Edwards received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2010.

Reproductive biology experts Professors John Aplin and Daniel Brison, and others will be marking the fortieth anniversary of IVF and the unique role Manchester played in it at events on 24 and 25 July.

Professor Brison, from The University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust said: “IVF has changed the world, thanks to the work of Steptoe, Purdy and Bob Edwards at Dr Kershaw’s.

The first NHS-funded IVF service was also established in 1983 at Saint Mary’s Hospital here in Manchester. Since then, IVF babies now total over 6 million and make up more than 2% of all UK births.

“Living in Oldham myself, I know Dr Kershaw ‘s well and believe it’s time we focus attention on the neglected role this hospital played as the world’s first successful IVF clinic.”

Professor Aplin, from The University of Manchester, said: “Greater Manchester has played a hugely important role in the history of IVF, going back to Walter Heape, who first carried out embryo transfer in rabbits at his home in Prestwich in 1890.

But IVF has also given birth to the field of human embryonic stem cell biology and has led to major advances in reproductive biology. Ground breaking research in Manchester on human embryo development and implantation has continued to contribute to the advancement of IVF science.

Dr Raj Mathur, a fertility expert and Clinical Lead of the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust IVF Service and Professors Brison and Aplin have organised an international scientific conference with the Society for Reproduction and Fertility on the history and future of IVF treatment on 25 July. It will be preceded by a free public lecture on the July 24 on the role of Greater Manchester in the early history of IVF. Professor Roger Gosden, a world renowned reproductive biologist and the official biographer of Bob Edwards will deliver a public lecture at Manchester Royal Infirmary entitled “Let there be life”.

Tickets are available here