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Breakthrough Babies

An IVF pioneer's tale of creating life against all odds

Simon Fishel, foreword by Jenny Hope, and contributions by Louise Brown

A fascinating personal account of the early days of IVF, from the world’s first IVF clinic through nearly four decades of academic and private practice. As well as his pioneering medical-scientific work to provide new treatments for patients, Simon Fishel's career has involved battles in both the social and professional arenas.

Size: 216 × 140 × 18 mm / 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.75 in256 PagesISBN: 9781788600736
Publication: March 14, 2019


  • £14.99

Simon Fishel grew up in Liverpool in a non-academic household. He struggled to find a career, but eventually joined Robert Edwards and worked with him during his early IVF pioneering work, becoming part of the team in the world’s first IVF clinic, with all the trials and tribulations that involved at the time, including a writ for murder!

As the science developed over the decades so did Fishel's career, as he sought to do more for patients, and to teach the new technologies to doctors all over the world. He came up against regulatory and establishment barriers, including fighting a 3-year legal case in the High Court of Justice, and a death threat from a doctor if he refused to work with him.

The clinic he founded has grown into the largest IVF group in the UK, developing new procedures for patients who needed these to enable them to have their children, and Fishel has helped establish clinics throughout the world, even being invited to introduce IVF to China.

This is a gripping account from the frontline of fertility treatment, revealing not only the scientific advances involved but the human cost and rewards behind this life-changing technology.

Medical journalist.

The world's first 'test tube' baby.

Professor Simon Fishel is the Founder and President of the CARE Fertility Group – the UK’s largest independent provider of fertility services. He began his research career at the University of Cambridge in 1975 with Bob Edwards, who was responsible - with Patrick Steptoe - for the birth of the first IVF baby Louise Brown in 1978. During 1978-1980 he was the first to publish on the metabolic responsiveness of embryos to their environment, and he also published on demonstrating the presence of specific uterine glycoproteins suggesting bidirectional signalling. Simon joined Patrick and Bob at Bourn Hall, the world's first dedicated IVF clinic, as Deputy Scientific Director when it opened in 1980, where he was part of the original clinical team undertaking IVF. In 1979 he was appointed a Research Fellow at Churchill College. In 1980 he was awarded the prestigious Beit Memorial Fellowship and in 1984 was the first to publish on the secretion of HCG by the human embryo. He has published over 200 scientific papers and three books and, with Alison Campbell, the first atlas of time-lapse images of the human embryo. His pioneering work in the field of IVF has resulted in many honorary awards around the world. In 1992 he founded the world's first degree course in IVF and he has advised several international government committees reviewing policy and legislation on IVF, including advisors to the Vatican. In 1997 he was awarded a Personal Professional Chair in Human Reproduction. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and in 2009 was honoured by the Liverpool John Moores University with their highest award of ‘University Fellow’ for 'outstanding contribution to science and to humanity'. He is the founder of the Rachel Foundation, a charity for research to help children rendered infertile due to medical treatment, and also to help raise awareness for secondary infertility. His professional interests span all elements of human reproduction, fertility and embryology, and IVF technologies in particular.

List of Figures


Special Note

1. Nobody Said It Would Be Easy

2. Bourn Hall: The World’s First IVF Clinic


3. Beginnings


4. Nottingham to Rome and Back


5. The Nurture Years


6. Bankruptcy Looms


7. CARE: The Battle for Miracles Continues


8. The DNA of IVF

9. The Legacy of IVF

About the Author .


"A very personal account. Not what you think. Simon Fishel sacrificed so much to get his CARE fertility clinics off the ground and personally risked it all by pushing the boundaries to help couples conceive and have genetically normal babies. I was amazed that he has was plagued by legal and financial problems for years and still kept on going. A very brave, determined man. Bravo!"

"I've enjoyed many medical memoirs, and have read quite a few about the miracle of birth-but these were midwife memoirs. This one starts way before actual births and tells of the growth of IVF treatment. It was a fascinating read. Simon Fishel originally worked with Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, pioneers in IVF treatment. He later set up an IVF unit in a hospital in Nottingham. You hear of so many couples having IVF treatment now-relatives, friends; so it was interesting to go back to its infancy. There were amazing advances made-whilst at the same time they suffered much opposition to what they were doing. This book is not just about miracle babies, there would be many hurdles and surprising events I didn't envisage too. The book contains photos and news clippings." Julie Haigh

"A remarkable and open account of the early years of IVF." Mrs A

'Fishel’s driving force has always been to ‘work at the limits of what’s possible’... [pushing] the cutting edge of IVF treatment to the maximum for people who had run out of hope. His rollercoaster ride through forty years of scientific advances provides a microcosm of a revolution in human conception taking place in laboratories, hospitals, and universities around the world. Yet at the same time he was battling demons that could have taken him down, from the threat of bankruptcy to having a gun held to his head by a maverick colleague, with a resilience that is genuinely admirable.' 
- Jenny Hope, medical journalist (from the Foreword)


Format: Paperback

Size: 216 × 140 × 18 mm / 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.75 in

256 Pages

Copyright: © 2019

ISBN: 9781788600736

Publication: March 14, 2019

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