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Patrick Steptoe

AKA Patrick Christopher Steptoe

Born: 9-Jun-1913
Birthplace: Witney, Oxfordshire, England
Died: 21-Mar-1988
Location of death: Canterbury, England
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Bourn Hall Chapel, Bourn, England

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Doctor, Scientist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: In vitro fertilization

Military service: British Navy (to Lieutenant Commander, 1939-46)

Patrick Steptoe worked with Robert G. Edwards to develop in vitro fertilization, a medical breakthrough that has allowed millions of couples to overcome fertility problems and have babies. His father was the registrar of births and deaths in Oxfordshire, and Steptoe first trained as a surgeon before specializing in gynecology. During World War II he served as a Naval surgeon at sea, and spent two years in an Italian prisoner of war camp after his ship was sunk.

Before meeting Edwards, Steptoe was already renowned for perfecting a method using a laparoscope (an endoscope consisting of an illuminated tube with an optical system, inserted through an incision in the abdominal wall) to remove human eggs from ovaries. He procured the eggs used by Edwards to refine his in vitro fertilization, and he was the gynecologist of Leslie Brown, a 30-year-old woman who had been unable to conceive a child with her husband. Steptoe performed the laparoscopy that obtained her eggs, to be fertilized with her husband's sperm and implanted in her uterus, leading to the birth of the world's first "test tube baby", Louise Brown, on 25 July 1978. The baby was delivered by Cesarean section performed by Steptoe, and he later recalled that as he handed the baby to her mother, "she cradled the infant, then managed to whisper: 'Thank you for my baby. Thank you'."

Their work was condemned by the Catholic Church and others as immoral or somehow frightening Frankenstein stuff, but Edwards and Steptoe were hailed by women worldwide with clogged fallopian tubes a not uncommon malady. They soon had a waiting list of thousands of couples hoping to receive the procedure, and in 1980 Edwards and Steptoe founded the world's first fertility specialty, Bourn Hall Clinic, in Bourn, England, where Steptoe served as the clinic's director until his death in 1988. At his funeral a musical piece composed by Steptoe was played, titled "Requiem for A Dying Embryo".

By the rules of the Nobel Committee scientists must be alive to be considered for the honor, so Steptoe was not included when Edwards won the Nobel Prize for their work in 2010.

Father: Harry Steptoe (town registrar of births, deaths and marriages, b. 1872, d. 1953)
Mother: Grace Minns (dressmaker, b. 1878, m. 3-Apr-1901, d. 1973)
Brother: Harry Vivian Steptoe (b. 1902, d. 1943)
Brother: Francis William Steptoe (b. 1903, d. 1984)
Brother: Cyril John Steptoe (b. 1905, d. 1966)
Brother: Jeffrey Steptoe (b. 1906, d. infancy)
Sister: Freda Mary Steptoe (b. 1907)
Brother: Ronald Steptoe (b. 1908, d. infancy)
Brother: Gerald Arthur Steptoe (b. 1911, d. 1989)
Sister: Rita Maud Steptoe (b. 1916)
Sister: Daphney Steptoe (b. 1918, d. infancy)
Sister: Yvonne Ruth Steptoe (b. 1922)
Wife: Sheena McLeod Kennedy (actress, m. 30-Dec-1942, one son, one daughter)
Daughter: Sally Johanna Steptoe (b. 1947)
Son: Andrew Steptoe (b. 1951)

    Medical School: MD, University of London (1939)

    Bourn Hall Clinic Co-Founder & Director (1980-88)
    UK National Health Service (1946-80)
    Commander of the British Empire
    Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    Royal College of Surgeons
    Royal Society 1987
    Taken Prisoner of War 1941-43

Author of books:
Laparoscopy in Gynaecology (1967, science)
A Matter of Life (1980, non-fiction; with Robert G. Edwards)


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