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The history of the NHS in England

The NHS in the 1970s

Louise Brown, the world's first test tube baby

Louise Brown, the world's first test-tube baby (image, right), was born on July 25 1978.

1972 – CT scans revolutionise the way doctors examine the body

Computerised tomography (CT) scanners produce three-dimensional images from a large series of two-dimensional X-rays.

The first CT scanner was dreamt up in England in 1967 by Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield, becoming a reality in 1972. His concept will go on to win him a Nobel Prize alongside the American Allan McLeod Cormack, who developed the same idea across the Atlantic.

Since then CT scanners have developed enormously, but the principle remains the same.  

1975 – endorphins are discovered

Scientists John Hughes and Hans Kosterlitz of the University of Aberdeen isolate what they call enkephalins from the brain of a pig.

These will later be termed endorphins from an abbreviation of "endogenous morphine". They are polypeptides (the building blocks of proteins) produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates.

They resemble opiates in their ability to relieve pain and give a sense of wellbeing. In other words, they work as natural painkillers. 

1978 – the world's first baby is born as a result of in vitro fertilisation (IVF)

Louise Brown, the world's first test-tube baby, is born on July 25 1978. Her parents Lesley and John Brown had failed to conceive because of her mother's blocked fallopian tubes.

Dr Patrick Steptoe, a gynaecologist at Oldham General Hospital, and Dr Robert Edwards, a physiologist at Cambridge University, develop a new technique to fertilise an egg outside a woman's body before replacing it in the womb.

More than a million children worldwide will go on to be conceived in this way. Find out more about in vitro fertilisation (IVF)

1979 – the first successful bone marrow transplant on a child takes place

Professor Roland Levinsky performs the UK's first successful bone marrow transplant on a child with primary immunodeficiency at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Bone marrow is responsible for creating the body's immune system.

The Anthony Nolan Trust recruits and manages bone marrow donors for transplants that may be needed as a result of diseases such as leukaemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or other cancers of the blood.


Page last reviewed: 05/07/2013

Next review due: 05/07/2015

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