Manchester

Jean Purdy: Oldham Council urged to honour IVF pioneer

Jean Purdy and Robert Edwards. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jean Purdy and Robert Edwards worked together on the development of IVF

A health chief has vowed to rectify the lack of recognition for one of the people involved in the birth of the world's first 'test tube baby'.

Oldham councillor Zahid Chauhan wants to honour Jean Purdy's role in the creation of fertility treatment IVF.

Newly-released archived letters reveal Oldham health chiefs snubbed a call for her to be honoured in 1980.

Nurse Ms Purdy worked with scientist Robert Edwards and medic Patrick Steptoe in the development of IVF.

The team made history with the birth of Louise Brown in 1978, the world's first baby who was conceived in a petri dish, at an Oldham lab.

Ms Purdy first spotted the fertilised egg, which was to become Louise, was dividing to make new cells.

Archived letters between reproductive biologist Prof Edwards and the Oldham Area Health Authority 39-years-ago revealed his request to recognise Ms Purdy as one of the IVF innovators on a plaque was turned down.

Mr Chauhan, Oldham's cabinet member for health and social care, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "Inventing IVF treatment would not have been possible without those people - very much including nurse Jean Purdy.

"And while she isn't around to see that I think it's important that we recognise her contributions as well."

The councillor, who is a GP, is speaking to hospital chiefs and the council to explore a way of officially recognising Ms Purdy's work. She died in 1985 aged 39.

The snub came to light after letters were released from Prof Edwards' private papers, which are held at Cambridge University's Churchill Archives Centre.

Dr Edwards wrote he wanted wording which included the name of Ms Purdy "who travelled to Oldham with me for 10 years, and contributed as much as I did to the project".

But the plaque at Kershaw's Cottage Hospital in Royton went ahead without her name.

More on this story