Administrative / Biographical History

At Dr Kershaw's Cottage Hospital, Royton, Great Manchester in 1977, Patrick Steptoe and Dr Robert Edwards performed the first human in-vitro fertilisation which led to a successful pregnancy. The child, Louise Brown, was born on 25 July 1978. Steptoe also pioneered the laparoscopic technique of viewing female reproductive organs, now known as keyhole surgery. Steptoe was born in Witney, Oxfordshire, on 9 June 1913. He was a talented pianist and organist and at the age of 18 was appointed musical director and organist to the Christchurch Musical Society. Steptoe did not begin his medical studies until he was 20, and studied at King's College London and St George's Hospital, London. Soon after the outbreak of war, Steptoe became a ship's surgeon; he was imprisoned by the Italians for two years. On his return to England, Steptoe undertook specialist clinical training at St George's. He could not find a consultant post in London, so became part-time consultant at Oldham General Hospital where he created a centre of excellence. Steptoe soon became a respected gynaecological consultant. In 1968 he started to work with Dr Robert Edwards of Cambridge, on overcoming the problems of female infertility. After his retirement in 1980, Steptoe continued to work with Edwards at the Bourn Hall Clinic they had founded. Steptoe was a founder member of the British Fertility Society, and was president of the International Federation of Fertility Societies. Steptoe's brilliance was widely recognised, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society, and was awarded prestigious prizes by the Royal Society of Medicine and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He was awarded the gold medal of the BMA and the CBE, however he died before these could be presented. Steptoe died of cancer on 21 March 1988.

Related Material

See also MMC/1/Steptoe.