Work of IVF nurse pioneers will finally be celebrated… 40 years after they were snubbed

Achievements of the test tube baby nurses went unrecorded on commemorative plaque

Achievements of the test tube baby nurses went unrecorded on commemorative plaque

Jean Purdy with professor Edwards in their research lab in Cambridge in 1968 –
a decade before the birth of Louise Brown. Picture: Getty

The names of nurses who were pivotal to the birth of the world's first in-vitro fertilised (IVF) baby will be posthumously recognised more than 40 years on.

The names of nurse and embryologist Jean Purdy and nurse operating theatre superintendent Muriel Harris were left off the original commemorative plaque at Royal Oldham Hospital. Only the achievements of Nobel-prize winning reproductive biologist and physiologist Robert Edwards and obstetrician and gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe were recorded.

Recently-released letters from the late professor Edwards' archive show he repeatedly fought for official recognition for Ms Purdy, but to no avail at the time.

Putting the record straight

Now the organisation that runs the Royal Oldham Hospital has agreed to set the record straight. 

The nurses worked closely with professor Edwards and Mr Steptoe in the pioneering IVF treatment that led to the birth of Louise Brown on 25 July 1978.

‘We must take this opportunity to ensure our history is not forgotten’

Nicola Firth, director of nursing and acting chief officer, Oldham Care Organisation

Oldham Care Organisation announced it will work with Oldham Council and local partners to recognise everyone involved, on a new plaque.

The organisation’s director of nursing and acting chief officer Nicola Firth said: 'We fully support the need to install a commemorative plaque to recognise not only the crucial role that Jean Purdy played but also that of sister Muriel Harris.

'As we approach the 41st birthday of Louise Brown and the 71st anniversary of the NHS this month, we must take this opportunity to make this consensus view a reality and ensure our history is not forgotten.'

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