U.S. IVF pioneer dies aged 104 after helping to create more than five million babies

2015-08-04
THE GUARDIAN Newspaper

Howard Jones, the doctor, who pioneered in-vitro fertilisation in the United States when he was 70, has died in hospital.
Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS), where he developed the technique, said Jones died there of respiratory failure on Friday, surrounded by his family. He was 104.

The work of Jones and his late wife Dr.Georgeanna Jones led to the nation’s first child born as a result of in vitro fertilisation in 1981.

That baby, Elizabeth Jordon Carr, was delivered at Norfolk General Hospital to Judith Carr, a 28-year-old schoolteacher whose fallopian tubes had been removed as a result of previous failed pregnancies, and her husband Roger, 30.

Elizabeth is now 33 and a mother herself. She was the fifteenth baby in the world to be created via IVF. She told USA Today that Jones always called her on her birthday and added: “You can’t begin to thank the person who brought you into the world.

“Beyond being a great scientist, he went to work every day and he loved it. He was so driven. He was at his desk editing his book. He was still going to work. That’s why he was so successful.”

The IVF baby to be born was Louise Brown in Britain in 1978, as a result of work by United Kingdom (UK) physiologist Robert G. Edwards.

The Joneses had worked with Edwards in the 1960s when he visited the University School of Medicine in Baltimore, where they were on the faculty there.
Edwards credited his time with the couple as critical to his success with IVF, in which an egg is fertilized by sperm in a lab dish, then transferred into the womb.

More than five million births have now stemmed from in vitro fertilisation around the world.
The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at EVMS, which is named in honor of the Joneses, has helped around 4,000 IVF babies to be born.

For several years, families who had children with the institute’s help were invited to join Howard and Georgeanna at a Mother’s Day celebration. Photos from the events show the Joneses surrounded by hundreds of families.

Jones continued to keep office hours at the institute even after he was 100. Over his life, he authored 12 books, including a memoir about IVF that was published last fall titled ‘In Vitro Fertilisation Comes to America: Memoir of a Medical Breakthrough.’

He also campaigned to expand insurance coverage for IVF, long after he stopped treating patients.

Dr. Jones is survived by his three children and several grandchildren. His wife died in 2005, at the age of 92, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. When Jones was 100 he told a TV reporter that his greatest accomplishment in life had been ‘getting Georgeanna to marry me’.

The son of a physician in Baltimore, he worked at John Hopkins University for three decades before coming to EVMS in 1978, five years after the school opened.

 

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