The legacy of Steptoe and Edwards: 40 years of IVF

2018 is a symbolic year for IVF. Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby will celebrate her 40th birthday later this year and she will be part of huge celebrations as the date is marked across the world

But it is also tinged with sadness as it also marks the 30th anniversary of the death of gynaecologist Dr Patrick Steptoe, CBE and the fifth anniversary of physiologist, Dr Robert Edwards’s death, in 2013 – the founders of in vitro fertilisation (IVF)

The pair, after a chance meeting, pioneered the first five-day embryo in a test-tube, known as a blastocyst in 1969 and with scepticism from their peers, the duo set about securing funding for their work to continue.

Eventually, Steptoe and Edwards secured US funding to continue their research. Along with assistant Jean Purdy, they would work tirelessly to help infertile women, many whom saw the pair as their last chance at motherhood.

It would be another nine years before the birth of Louise Brown, in 1978, and in that time the pair faced criticism and condemnation from many sides, including the Vatican.

But soon others followed the pair’s lead, with them training many gynaecologists and to accommodate demand, they founded Bourn Hall, in Cambridgeshire – the world’s first clinic dedicated to IVF treatment.

Louise Brown said of Dr Steptoe: “Patrick Steptoe was like a grandfather to me. He died when I was 10 years old. I last saw him when we appeared on the Wogan TV show together. He had a big booming voice and I always felt I had to behave when he was around. My Mum trusted him from the moment she met him and the family are forever grateful for the wonderful things he did to advance IVF.”

Professor Steptoe died aged 74 on March 21 1988.

Professor Sir Robert Edwards continued his work into assisted human reproduction for the next 20 years

The writer of many journals and books, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010 and was honoured with a Knighthood in 2011. He passed away on April 10, 2013 aged 87.

Louise Brown said  “I’ve always regarded Robert Edwards like a grandfather to me. His work, along with Patrick Steptoe, has brought happiness and joy to millions all over the world by enabling them to have children. I am glad he lived long enough to be recognised with a Nobel prize for his work and his legacy will live on with all the IVF work being carried out throughout the world.”

These two incredible men have changed the lives of so many across the world who otherwise would not have been able to have the families they are so blessed to now have.

Tracey, co founder of IVFbabble says “Sara and I are just two of the many millions these two incredible gentlemen have helped . . . and no words can describe the hope and now incredible happiness they have brought into our lives . . . we just can’t thank them enough.” 


To honour these incredible IVF pioneers – and to celebrate Louise Brown’s birthday – IVFbabble has joined forces with leading IVF clinics around the world to give others the chance to have their yearned for families.

Up to an incredible 40 free IVFs will be given away on Louise Brown’s birthday on 25 July 2018 and all you need to do is complete a short form to enter.

We already have an incredible 14 free IVFs to give away and with the generosity of such amazing clinics, this is growing each month!

All you need to do to enter now is click here

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Translate »