The Test-Tube Generation Celebrates Its First Decade

updated 06/05/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/05/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

They came—although to be truthful, many were carefully hand-carried—from Iceland and Australia, India and Swaziland, Canada and the United States. But where they really came from was a place of creation that until a few years ago existed only in the pages of science fiction: a laboratory dish.

There were 615 of them, the children commonly known as test-tube babies, the products of the in vitro meeting of sperm and egg. Last month they gathered in the tiny village of Bourn in Cambridgeshire, England, for one of the most traditional of all good times: a children's tea party complete with ice cream, balloons, cakes, magicians, pony rides and a Punch-and-Judy show.

The occasion was the 10th anniversary of the founding of Bourn Hall Clinic, the world's first center for in vitro fertilization. Honored were the late Dr. Patrick Steptoe, the clinic's co-founder, who died last year of cancer, and Louise Brown, 10, the first human to be successfully conceived outside a womb. "All my friends know I was a test-tube baby, but no one makes any fuss about it," said Louise, a robust schoolgirl from Bristol who honored Steptoe by planting a walnut tree in his memory. "One nice thing for me is that I feel as if I have a thousand brothers and sisters all over the world."

A total of 1,295 children, almost a tenth of the world's test-tube babies, have been conceived at the clinic. Among the most celebrated are the clinic's only set of quadruplets, four girls born to Margret Valgeirsson of Iceland and her husband, Gudjon, a dentist, in January 1989, and Britain's first test-tube twins, Hannah and Peter Emmerson-Thomas, 5. Said their mother, Angel: "Hannah believes she is already as famous as Michael Jackson." Which, of course, raises the question: Where in the world did become from?

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