Louise Brown, Freaky Babies and the Nobel Prize

louise brown, invitro
The world learns of the first "test-tube" baby

It’s not every Nobel prize winner who can claim to have had such a direct and life-or-no-life influence on so many people. But Dr. Robert Edwards can. The British biologist who pioneered in-vitro fertilization has been named the winner of the 2010 Nobel prize for medicine and physiology.

Not only is he celebrating but 4 million babies conceived through IVF and their families are, too.

Louise Brown, the world’s first so-called “test tube baby” and her parents, Lesley and John Brown, have sent along their congratulations to Dr. Edwards, a man who changed (if not made) their lives. In a statement, the 32-year-old Louise said that her parents are happy that Dr. Edwards has received the recognition that he deserves.

If you’re old enough, you remember Louise Brown’s name and exactly what made her notorious. You might even remember feeling a little freaky about the whole business of making babies in a lab. The way Louise Brown was talked about — “test tube baby” — I can remember imagining that she gestated in one of those science-y beaker thinks that I saw in cartoons. And she was hardly welcomed with the coos and celebrations millions of other babies conceived through IVF have been over the years.

But she was the first, and that was scary back then.

People continued to use the term “test-tube” baby for a really long time. It seems it wasn’t until the 90s that the term “in-vitro” and IVF fully replaced the inaccurate and freaky sounding test-tube descriptor.

After Louise Brown’s birth, the whole procedure came to light and it was relatively controversial. People worried about all the implications — things will spiral out of control! human cloning! Considering Octomom Nadya Suleman and some advancements in animal cloning,  it’s true that case could be made. But what Dr. Edwards quietly did was make millions of happy couples and lots and lots of babies.

louise brown, nobel prize
The happy mother with her son.

Sure, we still have the ethics, cost and long-term effects of in-vitro to really hash out and understand. Not every IVF procedure ended in conception or full-term pregnancy or a big fat baby. But for millions of couples it was worth a shot. In the meantime, Louise Brown, now 32, conceived her son the old-fashioned way and gave birth in 2007 — the effect of Dr. Edwards work continues.

Most of us know children conceived through IVF. Their families are likely celebrating today’s Nobel prize news.

Are you?

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Article Posted 6 years Ago

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