Dr. Patrick Christopher Steptoe - The Father
Patrick Steptoe, an English gynecologist and medical researcher, helped develop
the technique of in vitro fertilization. Patrick Christopher Steptoe was born on June 9, 1913 in Oxfordshire,
England. Steptoe studied medicine at the University of London's St. George Hospital Medical School and, after being licensed
in 1939, became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1948 he became a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists and moved to Manchester to set up a private practice. In 1951 Steptoe began working at Oldham General and
District Hospital in northeast England.
In 1966 Steptoe teamed with Cambridge University physiologist Robert G. Edwards to propel his work with fertility problems.
Utilizing ovaries removed for medical reasons, Edwards had pioneered the fertilization of eggs outside of the body. With his
laparoscope, Steptoe added the dimension of being able to secure mature eggs at the appropriate moment in the monthly cycle
when fertilization would normally occur. A breakthrough for the duo came in 1968 when Edwards successfully fertilized an egg
that Steptoe had extracted. Not until 1970, however, was an egg able to reach the stage of cell division-into about 100 cells-when
it generally moves to the uterus. In 1972 the pair attempted the first implantation, but the embryo failed to lodge in the
uterus. Indeed, none of the women with implanted embryos carried them for a full trimester.
In 1976 Steptoe met thirty-year-old Leslie Brown, who experienced problems with her fallopian tubes. Steptoe removed
a mature egg from her ovary, and Edwards fertilized the egg using her husband Gilbert's sperm. The fertilized egg-implanted
after two days-thrived, and on July 25, 1978, Joy Louise Brown ,a healthy five pound twelve ounce girl was born in Oldham
District and General Hospital. (See video link below).
Steptoe died of cancer on March 21, 1988,
in Canterbury. Yet, since the birth of baby Brown and the pioneering techniques of Steptoe, couples with various physiological
problems have had children in clinics throughout the world.