Howard and Georgeanna Jones
Dr. Howard Jones and his wife Dr. Georgeanna Seegar Jones helped to create the first test tube baby born in the United States. The book “Pandora’s Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution” showed how they never shied from controversy. Long before Dr. Howard Jones opened America’s first in vitro fertilization clinic, he was doing sex change operations at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. He was also one of the doctors who cared for Henrietta Lacks, whose immortal cancer cells are the focus of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” the best-selling book by Rebecca Skloot. In the 1960s, he conducted laboratory studies of sperm and oocytes – immature eggs – with the British scientist Robert Edwards, who helped create the world’s first test tube baby, born in England in 1978. Even though Dr. Jones had grown accustomed to public rancor over his research and operations, nothing was as fierce as the American opposition to his in vitro fertilization clinic. He opened the clinic in 1979 after he and his wife Georgeanna retired from Johns Hopkins. They were offered positions to chair the obstetrics and gynecology department at the newly created East Virginia Medical School. After the Jones Institute opened in Norfolk, Virginia, picketers tried to block patients from entering. In the beginning, the Joneses would only allow women without fallopian tubes to participate in studies to ensure that any potential pregnancies resulted from in vitro fertilization and did not occur naturally. The Joneses had 41 failures before their first success. Dr. Seegar Jones had a hunch that hMG – human menopausal gonadotropin – which prompts the release of several eggs, would increase the odds of success. They gave patients seven ampules per cycle, which would prompt the release of about three eggs. They had 12 failed in vitro attempts before the first patient, Judith Carr, got the drugs and then got pregnant. Ms. Carr had a Cesarean section because they wanted to make sure the baby was not hurt in the birth canal. Elizabeth Carr was born healthy on the morning of December 28, 1981. Howard and Georgeanna Jones were saluted in a Life magazine cover essay, “Test Tube Triumphs” and featured in over a thousand newspapers across the country. With great foresight, Dr. Jones saw a need for an ethics panel and started the ethics committee of the American Fertility Society. Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones participated in the Academy of Achievement’s 1983 Summit at Coronado, California, and spoke to the student delegates about their vision and knowledge as founders of the first successful in vitro fertilization clinic in the United States, and the public controversy surrounding their work. Dr. Georgeanna Seegar Jones, a renowned endocrinologist, died in 2005, at age 92. Dr. Howard Jones is now 101 years old.
8 Jul 1983