Looking into the Test-Tube: The Birth of IVF on British Television

Speaker: Dr Katie Dow # University of Cambridge

3rd Oct 2016

15:30 - 17:00

Crystal MacMillan Building, Staff Room, 6th floor

The birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first ‘test-tube baby’, has come to signify the moment at which technologically assisted human reproduction became a reality. This was a highly mediated and visible reality, as this paper will explore through the example of a British television documentary about Louise Brown shown when she was just six weeks old, To Mrs Brown... a Daughter (Thames Television 1978). In the paper, I will discuss the film alongside data from an interview with its producer, Peter Williams. Williams sought to convince the public that IVF was morally acceptable and to cultivate sympathy for the infertile through this film. In this seminar, I will consider how this normalisation of IVF was achieved at a pivotal moment in its history through focusing on the programme's visual presentation of Louise Brown, the aims of Peter Williams in making the film and his sympathetic relationship with the ‘pioneers’ of IVF, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards. 

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