25 July AD 306
After the death of his father, Constantius Chlorus, the future Constantine the Great is proclaimed Roman emperor by his troops at York.
25 July 1261
Constantinople, which had been in Latin hands since 1204, was recaptured by the Nicaean emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos. His dynasty would rule the city until its fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
25 July 1852
Scottish surveyor and civil engineer Thomas Grainger died from injuries sustained in a rail crash at Stockton-on-Tees. Grainger was engineer of the two-mile Bramhope tunnel in West Yorkshire.
25 July 1913
John Cairncross was born in Lesmahagow, South Lanarkshire. In 1990 he was publicly named by Soviet double-agent Oleg Gordievsky as the ‘fifth man’ in the spy ring of Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt. | Read more about the Cambridge Five
25 July 1920
Birth in London of scientist Rosalind Franklin. Her research work at King’s College, London played an important role in the discovery of the double helix form of DNA.
25 July 1965
To the horror of purists at the Newport Folk Festival in the US, Bob Dylan appears with backing from electric guitars, changing the course of rock music history.
25 July 1978: World’s first IVF baby is born
A new technique to help infertile couples attracts controversy when it results in what some call a ‘test tube baby’
If you had visited the Oldham and District General Hospital in the last week of July 1978, you might have been surprised to find security especially tight. But there was good reason for the heightened sense of tension. For it was here, shortly before midnight on 25 July, that Lesley Brown gave birth to her daughter Louise – then widely described as the world’s first ‘test tube baby’.
Today, when so many parents worldwide have benefited from the medical miracle of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), it seems remarkable that little Louise’s entrance into the world attracted such controversy. The process had been pioneered by the consultant gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe and the Cambridge research scientist Robert Edwards, who selected Mr and Mrs Brown from thousands of potential couples. Yet the next day’s headlines were full of predictions of disaster, with some columnists even talking of ‘Frankenbabies’, while some Catholic leaders were quick to object. “I have grave misgivings,” declared Cardinal Gordon Gray, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, “about the possible implica- tions and consequences for the future.”
For the Brown family, that moment on 25 July was of course one of unutter- able joy. But letters poured in from across the world, many of them downright abusive. One parcel from California contained a series of letters covered in red liquid, a broken glass test tube and a plastic foetus.
Still, there were messages of support, too. “I fear that you will find yourselves on the receiving end of all the usual criticism and condemnation that follows any medical breakthrough, so am writing to try in a tiny way to even things up,” read one letter, sent all the way from Australia. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook