Skip Navigation

Revealed: the reasons why the MRC did not fund research that led to the birth of the world’s first test tube baby

2 August 2010

Thirty-two years ago today (25 July), the world’s first baby was born after in vitro fertilisation. However, the work that led to the birth of Louise Brown on 25 July 1978 had to be privately funded after the UK’s Medical Research Council decided in 1971 against providing the Cambridge physiologist Robert Edwards and the Oldham gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe with long-term financial support. Today, an intriguing paper published in Europe’s leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction reveals for the first time the reasoning behind the MRC’s much-criticised decision.

The authors of the research, led by Martin Johnson, Professor of Reproductive Sciences at the University of Cambridge, and funded by the Wellcome Trust, write: “The failure of Edwards’ and Steptoe’s application for long-term support was not simply due to widespread establishment hostility to IVF. It failed, we argue for more complex reasons”.

Read the full press release here.

Read the full editorial here.

Read the full article here.

Published in Human Reproduction, Advanced Access, 25 June 2010.



In the news

Independent - How the IVF revolution nearly didn't happen

New Scientist - Why IVF pioneers were denied public money

BMJ (subscription needed) - MRC did not fund IVF pioneers’ research because they weren’t in

New Scientist - Out-of-body experiences