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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience


On February 15th 1969, Nature published a paper by Edwards, Bavister and Steptoe entitled "Early stages of fertilization in vitro of human oocytes matured in vitro" (Nature 221: 632-5). The article generated huge public controversy and much condemnation. Yet, with the 40th anniversary of this landmark paper, the UK Parliament has approved the creation in vitro for research purposes of animal:human admixed embryos, and clinics in various parts of the world are offering social sex selection and/or production of ‘saviour siblings’ by preimplantation genetic diagnosis. These examples suggest that this paper marked the launch of a sea-change in attitudes and values - not just in biology and medicine, but also more widely: the new interdisciplinary study of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) was born. So it was timely to celebrate the anniversary of a land-mark British scientific achievement, but also critically to ask the question: “What difference did this paper make?” This is the question that a group of distinguished thinkers and speakers addressed from their different disciplinary perspectives. The speakers were preceded by a short exposition of the paper itself and its context and were followed with an hour of interdisciplinary discussions led by Professor Lisa Jardine.

Copies of the Commemorative programme are available here.

Non-edited streaming videos of the talks and discussions are available here.