Cambridgeshire

IVF pioneer Jean Purdy to be remembered with Grantchester memorial

Black and white photo of Jean Purdy in a laboratory Image copyright British Fertility Society
Image caption Jean Purdy died without seeing the full impact of her work

A memorial stone is to be unveiled to mark the achievements of one of the pioneers of IVF.

Jean Purdy worked alongside Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe on research which led to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and the first test-tube baby.

Mr Edwards' daughter, Jenny Joy, said Ms Purdy's role was "hugely important".

Ms Purdy, who was 39 when she died in 1985, will be remembered with a stone at a churchyard in Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, where she is buried.

The world's first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in July 1978 after years of research by Cambridge University physiologist Mr Edwards, obstetrician and gynaecologist Mr Steptoe and Ms Purdy, who had trained as a nurse at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Ms Purdy was 23 when Edwards and Steptoe recruited her to work alongside them.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The world's first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, with Robert Edwards at the 25th anniversary celebrations of IVF at Bourn Hall

She had little laboratory experience, but defined the role of the embryologist, developing tasks and processes that are now a standard part of IVF treatments.

Ms Joy remembers her as a "sort-of aunt figure" who spent 10 years working closely with her father.

"She was a key figure in running the labs, and spent time with the patients, reassuring people," she said. "They weren't working in easy conditions, her role was hugely important."

Image caption A blue plaque in Greater Manchester, where IVF was developed, celebrates the trio's achievement

In Mr Edwards' autobiography, he said they were "a threesome", describing Ms Purdy as "the patient, indomitable helper without whom none of our work would have been possible".

He died in 2013 but his family contributed to a crowdfunding site which raised more than £800 for the memorial in Grantchester.

It is due to be unveiled in July 2018.

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