There’s a saying, unattributed, that says greatness is often not appreciated in its own time. Unfortunately, the same was true of a female nurse and embryologist’s role in developing in vitro fertilization (IVF).
At CRM we have built our practice on cutting-edge technology and procedures, but we believe it is crucial to never forget where we’ve been as a practice and what reproductive medicine has meant to so many people over the decades since Louise Brown – the first IVF baby – was born.
As reported by The Guardian, “Jean Purdy was one of three scientists whose groundbreaking work led to the birth of the first IVF baby, in 1978. Yet her central role was largely forgotten in the rush to praise her colleagues, Prof Sir Robert Edwards and the surgeon Patrick Steptoe”.
Specifically, her name was excluded from a plaque honoring IVFs pioneers despite her colleagues – including Edwards – objecting to the snub.
An archivist at Cambridge University’s Churchill Archives Centre – where Edwards’ private papers are held – said there was not an explicit reason for the snub contained in the papers but assumed “it probably had quite a bit to do with the fact she was a nurse, an embryologist and a woman I suppose.”
Long Overdue Recognition
Unfortunately, Purdy died of cancer in 1985. Despite no longer being here to personally receive the recognition she so richly deserves for her role in pioneering IVF, it is great that the scientific community and general public is now aware of her contribution to the fertility of so many.
Continuing The Legacy
At CRM our female physicians continue down the path blazed by Purdy, providing exceptional care to our patients and making their own contributions to the field of reproductive medicine.