In vitro fertilization historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Historical Perspective

On the basis of Min Chueh Chang's research of in vitro fertilization on animals, the IVF technique was developed for the first time in humans in the United Kingdom by Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards. The first "test-tube baby", Louise Brown, was born in Oldham, England, as a result on July 25, 1978 amid intense controversy over the safety and morality of the procedure.[1]

Subhash Mukhopadhyay became the first physician in India, and the second in the world after Steptoe and Edwards, to perform in vitro fertilisation resulting in a test tube baby "Durga" (alias Kanupriya Agarwal) on October 3 1978. Facing social ostracism, bureaucratic negligence, reprimand and insult instead of recognition from the Marxist]] West Bengal government and refusal of the Government of India to allow him to attend international conferences, Mukhopadhyay committed suicide in his Calcutta residence in 1981.

Major pioneering developments in IVF occurred in Australia under the leadership of Carl Wood, Alan Trounson and Ian Johnston.[2][3] The world's third IVF baby, Candice Reed was born on June 23, 1980 in Melbourne, Australia.

The first successful IVF treatment in the USA (producing Elizabeth Jordan Carr) took place in 1981 under the direction of Doctors Howard Jones and Georgeanna Seegar Jones in Norfolk, Virginia. Since then IVF has exploded in popularity, with as many as 1% of all births now being conceived in-vitro, with over 115,000 born in the USA to date. At present, the percentage of children born after IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) has been up to 4% of all babies born in Denmark.

Jane Mohr, 38, of Manhattan Beach Calif, gave birth to the nation's first set of triplets born 21 months apart due to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and long-term embryo storage. Jane gave birth on November 29, 1988 to two daughters, Mollie McKenna and Hannah Christina Mohr, nearly two years after the birth of her son, Cooper Patrick Mohr.

"In Vitro"

The term in vitro, from the Latin root meaning in glass, is used, because early biological experiments involving cultivation of tissues outside the living organism from which they came, were carried out in glass containers such as beakers, test tubes, or petri dishes. Today, the term in vitro is used to refer to any biological procedure that is performed outside the organism, to distinguish it from an in vivo procedure, where the tissue remains inside the living organism within which it is normally found. A colloquial term for babies conceived as the result of IVF, test tube babies, refers to the tube-shaped containers of glass or plastic resin, called test tubes, that are commonly used in chemistry labs and biology labs. However in vitro fertilisation is usually performed in the shallower containers called petri dishes. Petri-dishes may also be made of plastic resins. However, the IVF method of autologous endometrial coculture is actually performed on organic material, but is yet called in vitro.


  1. Steptoe PC, Edwards RG (1978). "Birth after the reimplantation of a human embryo". Lancet. 2 (8085): 366. PMID 79723.
  2. Cohen J, Trounson A, Dawson K, Jones H, Hazekamp J, Nygren KG, Hamberger L. (2005). "The early days of IVF outside the UK". Hum Reprod Update: 439–59. PMID 15923202.
  3. Cohen LEETON, John (2004). "The early history of IVF in Australia and its contribution to the world (1970-1990)". The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 44 (6): 495–501.