Article
Louise Brown at Bourn Hall holding the 'test-tube' in which she was created

First 'test-tube' baby tells her story

By Dr Sarah Carr - 24 July 2015

The birth of Louise Brown – the world’s first “test-tube baby” – has been ranked alongside the moon landing as one of the most significant events for mankind in the 20th century. It was the catalyst for techniques that have revolutionised fertility treatment.  Now Louise has chosen Bourn Hall, the home of IVF, to launch her book, which reveals the impact that being a born a celebrity has had on her life and that of her family.

Louise Brown (37), now Mrs Louise Mullinder with two naturally conceived children of her own, has been of constant interest to the press and public since her remarkable birth, which was made possible by the IVF pioneers Patrick Steptoe, Robert Edwards and Jean Purdy.

Lesley and John Brown, a working-class couple from a deprived area of Bristol, became the first parents of an IVF baby quite by chance and were unprepared for the international fame that followed the birth of their daughter Louise.

As a baby Louise toured Japan, the USA, Canada and Ireland – the kind of world tour only seen previously by international pop stars - clocking up 29,425 air miles before she was six months old.

Following their success with the birth of Louise and second IVF baby Alastair Macdonald, Steptoe and Edwards established the world’s first IVF clinic at Bourn Hall, Cambridge. The techniques perfected there have led to the birth of over 5 million babies worldwide and IVF is now widely accepted as fertility treatment.  However, in July 1978 when Louise was born, the new technique generated deep moral and ethical questions.

International media interest in the story was so intense that journalists camped at the hospital and outside the Brown’s house for weeks on end and the birth was featured on front pages worldwide. Church leaders and politicians entered into debates about her birth.

Louise has chronicled her life story in an autobiography, “My life as the world’s first test tube baby”.  To be published on 1 August 2015, it tells of her life growing up in the media spotlight and of her lifelong connection with the IVF community.

The first edition of the book is being published in hardback by Bristol Books, an independent publisher based in Louise’s home city of Bristol.

The book will be launched on the 24th July 2015 at Bourn Hall Clinic with an exhibition of previously unseen documents and artefacts

The IVF pioneers are central to Louise’s story and her relationship with them is a remarkable story. Edwards was eventually awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010 for his work in IVF – 32 years after Louise’s birth.

The hardback book is available from booksellers and online from www.bristolbooks.org.

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