Manchester

Jean Purdy: Plaque will honour 'snubbed' 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 new plaque will honour a scientist's "crucial role" in the birth of the world's first test tube baby.

Sir Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe are known as the pioneers of IVF, which led to the birth of Louise Brown in 1978.

But embryologist Jean Purdy first spotted the fertilised egg was dividing to make new cells at Oldham Royal.

Archived letters reveal Oldham health chiefs snubbed a call for her to be honoured in 1980.

Now they want to "put the record straight" and honour the whole team, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Sister Muriel Harris, who was an operating theatre superintendent at the hospital will also be recognised.

Ms Harris, who died in 2007, worked with Dr Edwards and Mr Steptoe to establish the operating theatre facilities at both The Royal Oldham and Dr Kershaw's Cottage Hospital, without which "IVF could not have succeeded".

Image copyright John Fallows
Image caption Patrick Steptoe, with Muriel Harris (front, right) were among the nurses involved in the early days of IVF

The approved wording of the plaque authorised by the Oldham Area Health Authority only recognised the two male doctors, and "supporting staff", despite protestations from Dr Edwards.

Nicola Firth, director of nursing at Oldham Care Organisation, said they now "fully agree and support the need to install to install a commemorative plaque to recognise not only the crucial role that Jean Purdy played but also that of Sister Muriel Harris".

Oldham councillor Zahid Chauhan had called on the hospital to commit to a new memorial.

He said he was "delighted" the trust had agreed to work with him to correct the "historic mistake", and recognise not only Ms Purdy but also Sister Harris and their colleagues.

He added he was "proud to stand up for our unsung heroes".

Other health bosses, including Dame Donna Kinnair, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, and Ruth May, England's chief nursing officer, had also publicly backed the proposal.

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