World’s first test tube baby Louise turns 40

For most people turning 40 is not an event marked internationally – but for Knowle West’s Louise Mullinder it’s also a celebration of a landmark medical achievement.

The world’s first test tube baby – Louise Joy Brown was born in Oldham in July 1978 – which was the start of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) that revolutionised fertility treatment.

Her birth was the result of ten years of pioneering work by scientists Patrick Steptoe, Robert Edwards and Jean Purdy – which was met with a storm of controversy, with some concern even expressed by the Vatican.

When parents John and Lesley Brown brought her back to Bristol at just 12 days old they came back to a media frenzy, facing over 100 journalists trying to take her picture.

The media frenzy when Louise Brown was brought home to Bristol at just 12 days old. Picture by George Gallop , copyright KWMC.

And with the eyes of the world focused on the family – the media attention has continued throughout her life, with photographers often camped outside her house at key milestones.

Three years ago Louise published her autobiography about her life in the spotlight – including frequent TV appearances and flying round the world to speak at conferences.

And today, on July 25 the cameras were once more turned on the mum of two as a result of reaching 40.

Louise who works as a shipping clerk moved to Knowle West in 2003 and is married to Wesley Mullinder. She has two sons Cameron and Aiden, conceived naturally and says she does “feel special”.

She celebrated her birthday at the Science Museum at the opening of a new exhibition IVF: 6 Million Babies Later – which explores the story from opposition and the challenges faced by early pioneers to the latest research in reproductive science today.

At the exhibition she said: “Out of all the people that were in the room when I was born, there are only two of us alive. So I feel it’s my duty to go around the world and prove to people I am normal.

“Without them I wouldn’t be here, my sons wouldn’t be here, six million of us wouldn’t be here. I owe my life to those three people, they’re just fantastic.”