Conceiving a Miracle

Robert Edwards was born in 1925 in England. After graduating from high school, he joined the British Army. Once his service was completed he studied biology, eventually earning a PhD in Animal Genetics and Embryology when he was 30 years old.

Dr. Edwards spent five years doing research in various areas of physiology until he began to specialize in human fertilization. In 1968, he was able to fertilize a human egg in the laboratory. He then developed a culture media to support the fertilization process. He teamed up with a surgeon, Dr. Patrick Steptoe, and a nurse, Jean Purdy, to develop the process which would become known as in vitro fertilization (IVF). It was Jane Purdy who first saw the embryonic cells dividing.

When Lesley and John Brown became known as candidates for the IVF procedure, the IVF team decided to undertake the IVF procedure to create a child. Unknown to the Browns was they would be the first to undertake this experiment.

The IVF procedure was a success and Baby Louise was born on July 25, 1978. After nine years of trying, Lesley and John Brown had a child to love. The birth of Baby Louise was not without controversy. Cardinal Albino Luciani, who would become Pope John Paul I, was concerned that women would become baby factories. His fear never materialized.

Four years later, Baby Louise had a sister born through IVF. Natalie was the 40th child born through IVF. Natalie would later become the first person born with the IVF procedure to give birth naturally. Both Natalie and Louise’s children were born without IVF.

The number of children born via IVF exceeds 500,000 each year and that number keeps growing. The IVF process created by Doctors Edwards and Steptoe and Nurse Purdy has been hailed as one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century. Dr. Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010. Dr. Steptoe and Nurse Purdy did not receive the award because Nobel Prizes are not given posthumously.

The hope for a child is perhaps one of the most profound hopes one can have. For centuries, that hope went unfulfilled for many parents. It was the pioneering effort of Doctors Edwards and Steptoe and Nurse Purdy that made the hope for a child a reality. There is no greater contribution you can make than to fulfill the hopes of others.

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“Forget about all the reasons why something may not work. You only need one good reason why it will.” – Dr. Robert Anthony

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