Milestones in IVF: 1972 – celebrating 50 years of the British Fertility Society

 As part of The Queen’s Green Canopy seven lime trees have been planted at Bourn Hall Cambridge, one for each decade and each dedicated to a milestone in IVF – one of the greatest scientific and medical achievements made during The Queen’s reign.

Tree 2 – Celebrating 50 years of the British Fertility Society

The second tree in Elizabeth’s Wood was planted by Lyla, a Bourn Hall baby, together with Bryan Woodward of the British Fertility Society. It marks the creation of the BFS by Patrick Steptoe in 1972, but also the first time a laparoscope was used for fertility diagnosis.

Bryan said: “Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards were responsible for the first successful application of in-vitro fertilisation in humans, transforming not just the lives of millions of sub-fertile people but also society and science across the world.

Tasha, Ryan and Lyla with Mike Macnamee (Bourn Hall), Julie Spence (Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire) and Bryan Woodward (British Fertility Society)
Tasha, Ryan and Lyla with Mike Macnamee (Bourn Hall), Julie Spence (Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire) and Bryan Woodward (British Fertility Society)

“When he started his work on IVF, Patrick Steptoe had the foresight to bring together colleagues interested in fertility into a professional organisation designed to help them share excellence in practice and develop their nascent field.

“This body – the British Fertility Society – is now a thriving multi-professional association. It remains committed to the scientific and clinical ideals of its founders, and is proud to be associated with this commemoration.”

Patrick Steptoe first to use laparoscope for fertility

Steptoe was a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Oldham Hospital in Lancashire. He was expert in laparoscopy, a forerunner to keyhole surgery, which would allow the collection of mature eggs without abdominal surgery.

He also had a large number of patients that would benefit from IVF if it had been available. Many of these women agreed to assist with the research by donating eggs.

Tasha and Ryan OI overcomes PCOS
Tasha and Ryan with Lyla

Our little princess

Lyla Elizabeth from Norfolk was born following Ovulation Induction at Bourn Hall. She was named after her grandmother and great grandmother, who were both called Elizabeth.

Lyla celebrated her first birthday on the 2nd June, the anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the Platinum Jubilee. She was born in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after fertility treatment at Bourn Hall.

Her mum Tasha says: “The treatment at Bourn Hall has meant the world to us; Lyla is our little princess.”

Read Tasha and Ryan’s story.

More information

Read more about the planting of Elizabeth’s Wood at Bourn Hall as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Initiative here.

Patrick Steptoe’s childhood home in Oxfordshire was commemorated with a blue plaque – read more here.

Find out more about the history of IVF and Bourn Hall, the world’s first IVF clinic.

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