“The American Benefactress”

Cambridge University researcher Robert Edwards thought the person on the other end of a late night phone call was a friend in Canada disguising his voice as a woman with an American accent. Edwards joked his leg was being pulled when the woman said she’d read about his work and wanted to help. Lillian Lincoln was not joking.

What transpired was a series of grants through the ‘American Friends of Cambridge University’, which allowed Edwards, his colleague Dr. Patrick Steptoe and dedicated teams of nurses to forge ahead. Both men would later write that Lillian appeared at just the right moment. Some eight years later, in 1978 in Oldham hospital near Manchester, Louise Brown was born. The first IVF baby.

Today, nearly 8,000,000 babies have come into this world, a gift of life for parents who struggled to conceive. Lillian chose to remain anonymous about her involvement until after her passing in 2014. At an IVF symposium in the UK in 2018, the story of the ‘American Benefactress’ was revealed. Lillian’s contribution of 623,000 pounds in today’s currency, quite literally changed the world.