National Science Week at the ANU Library – significant discoveries

17 August 2018

The ANU Library is celebrating this year’s National Science Week theme – Game Changers and Change Makers – by exploring some of the incredible resources in our collection that showcase amazing scientific achievement.

We are finishing off this series by looking at some incredibly significant scientific discoveries, which have impacted countless millions of people. This includes an important figure close to the heart of ANU.

40th anniversary of the first child born by IVF

This year marks the 40th birthday of the first child born by in vitro fertilisation, or IVF. Louise Joy Brown was born in the United Kingdom on July 25, 1978 to instant fame as the world’s first “test tube baby”. Her mother Lesley had undergone an experimental procedure trialled by Patrick Steptoe, Robert Edwards and Jean Purdy, which became known as IVF.  This event was a landmark in reproductive science, and in the past forty years it is estimated that over 8 million babies have been born as a result of IVF and other fertility treatments. Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010 for this achievement.

IVF remains to this day a controversial topic in both scientific and ethical fields, but has given hope to many of those hoping to have a child.

You can read more about this in IVF, the critical issues, Conception in the test tube: the IVF story: how Australia leads the world, or From IVF to immortality: controversy in the era of reproductive technology.

120th birthday of Sir Howard Florey

Sir Howard Florey was an Australian pharmacologist and pathologist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 for his role in the development of penicillin.

Although Sir Alexander Fleming has received most of the credit for the discovery of penicillin, it was Florey who carried out the first ever clinical trials in 1941 of penicillin in Oxford. Florey and Sir Ernst Chain were able to make a useful and effective drug out of penicillin, and it was produced in sufficient quantities to treat wounded soldiers in World War II. The discovery of penicillin is estimated to have saved over 200 million lives, and Florey is regarded by the Australian scientific and medical community and one of its greatest figures.

This year marks both 120 years since the birth of Florey, as well as 50 years since his death. You can read about the impact of his career in Howard Florey, penicillin and after and Howard Florey, the making of a great scientist.

In 1958, Florey opened the John Curtin School of Medical Research here at ANU, and he was also the ANU Chancellor from 1965-68.  You will be able to see more about the scientific history of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the exhibit Part of the DNA: The John Curtin School of Medical Research and the ANU Library, on display in the Menzies Library foyer August to October