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Happy Birthday! Louise Brown, First IVF Baby, Turns 40

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The year was 1978. The headline in the Daily Mail read as follows - "And Here She Is... The Lovely Louise."

NOEL KING, HOST:

That is Louise Joy Brown. She was born on this day 40 years ago.

MARTIN: While, yes, all birthdays are special, hers, especially so. Brown is the first baby to be born through in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Here she is speaking with the site Eggsperience a few years back.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LOUISE JOY BROWN: My name's Louise. Mum and Dad had gone to local doctors because she'd been trying for about 10 years to have a baby with no success. And I think it was about a year later - or a year and a half later, I believe, and then mum had me.

KING: One of their doctors was the late Robert G. Edwards. He went on to win a Nobel Prize for his work on IVF, and his research opened the door to a whole new field of medicine. But it also came with controversy, which is something Edwards said he and his team talked a lot about.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ROBERT G. EDWARDS: We agreed before we touched a patient that we would stop if we thought any damage being done to the mother, the father or the child, but we would not accept religious objections that weren't defined or political objections that weren't defined or personal insults, which we got in plenty.

MARTIN: On the big day, Brown's birthday, a film crew was there to capture the moment she was born.

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)

PATRICK STEPTOE: A good healthy cry.

MARTIN: Brown was born via cesarean section, weighing about 5 1/2 pounds.

KING: Lovely Louise now has two kids herself. And you can see mementos like gifts and newspaper clippings and some of the hundreds of letters that people wrote to Brown's parents after she was born. Those are at the Bristol Archive (ph).

MARTIN: And since Louise Joy Brown's birth, an international committee monitoring progress in assisted reproduction reports more than 8 million babies have been born as a result of IVF and other advanced fertilization treatments.

KING: And so, to the trailblazer, we all say...

(SOUNDBITE OF BBC BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Happy birthday, dear Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.