Our history

In 1978, the ground-breaking collaboration between Mr. Patrick Steptoe, Professor Robert Edwards, and embryologist Jean Purdy reached its pinnacle with the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first baby conceived through IVF treatment.

This historic event, initially celebrated as a miracle, also stirred significant controversy, drawing criticism from various quarters, including politicians and religious leaders. It’s remarkable to reflect on how contentious this breakthrough was perceived at the time.

Bob, Jean, Patrick at Bourn Hall feat
Bob, Jean, Patrick at Bourn Hall

Following their success with Louise in 1978 and the first IVF baby boy, Alastair MacDonald, born in January 1979, Steptoe, Edwards, and Purdy, undeterred by the challenges and controversies, pursued their vision with unwavering determination, establishing the world’s first IVF clinic at Bourn Hall in 1980. Their pioneering efforts paved the way for millions of “miracle births” worldwide, as their discoveries were shared generously with medical practitioners and scientists globally.

Alastair MacDonald, Bob Edwards and Louise Brown


2010 saw the ultimate recognition of their work in the award to Robert Edwards of the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Although IVF is no longer as contentious or taboo a subject, it remains an intensely personal journey for individuals grappling with infertility, necessitating specialised care and empathy. This ethos remains central to our mission at every Bourn Hall clinic.

In 2022, Wellcome Collection’s archivists embarked on a project at Bourn Hall, Cambridge, cataloguing and preserving a significant portion of our archival material. While this is still being worked on by the collection archives team, you can see the summary of the online catalogue: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/vx4n6ndf

The papers of Sir Robert Edwards, which include records relating to the establishment and activities of Bourn Hall Clinic, are held at Churchill Archives Centre. The papers of Lesley Brown, the first mother to conceive by IVF, are held at Bristol Archives.

Several current members of Bourn Hall staff, including several of the senior management team, worked with Steptoe and Edwards in those early days. Our collective experience and expertise – as well as the skills and dedication of all of our healthcare professionals – will help guide you on your journey towards parenthood.