Louise Brown, the first test-tube baby, was born on July 25, 1978, in Bristol, England. Four years later, Elizabeth Carr became America's first test-tube baby. Their births were made possible by in vitro fertilization (IVF), which involves retrieving an egg from the mother and sperm from the father. The egg and sperm are combined in a petri dish (a small covered dish made of glass or plastic) or test tube for fertilization. Then the fertilized egg is implanted into the mother's uterus and grows there until the baby is ready to be born. This process gave many people who were unable to conceive naturally a chance to have children, and many successful births resulted. Yet the rate of fertilization was often low, so researchers developed new and controversial ways to complete fertilization. As Louise Brown and her parents celebrated her twentieth birthday in 1998, news stories abounded with discussions of the ethics of in vitro fertilization. Some of these controversial issues include the belief that these new techniques add to the risk of birth defects in infants, the use of IVF to make mothers of women who have already become too old to conceive naturally, and the sale of human eggs to be used for IVF via the Internet. Since the birth of Louise Brown in 1978, 100,000 babies have been born in the United States alone as a result of in vitro fertilization.
Further Information: Goldberg, Carey. "Historic Test-tube Baby Leads a Life of Normalcy." New York Times, November 7, 1999; Ridley, Matt. "Will We Still Need to Have Sex?" Time, pp. 66–69; Rowland, Rhonda. "As First Test Tube Baby Turns 20, Ethical Questions Persist." CNN.com. [Online] Available http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/views/y/1998/07/rowland.testtube/, November 6, 2000.