TRIBUTES last night flowed for Carl Wood, the father of in vitro fertilisation whose ground-breaking research offered hope to infertile couples around the globe.
Professor Wood and his Monash University team achieved the first IVF pregnancy in 1973. Australia’s first test-tube baby, Candice Reed, was born in 1980. More than 45,000 babies have been born worldwide with the technology.
Professor Wood died in a nursing home on Friday after a seven-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease that left him unable to communicate. He was 82.
IVF Australia medical director Peter Illingworth described Professor Wood as a “visionary” whose team’s research had a monumental influence.
The gynaecologist’s impact on medicine extended far beyond the development of IVF. Monash IVF medical director Gab Kovacs, who began working with Professor Wood as a 22-year-old student, said: “He was at the forefront of everything, always 10 years ahead of his time. Carl pioneered the monitoring of babies during labour, which saved many, many lives. He was also one of the first to suggest there was more to women than just their organs and pushed for the introduction of sexual counselling and abortion reform. More recently, he advocated minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery.”
Professor Wood played a pivotal role in developing the Monash University faculty of medicine, having been appointed a professor in his mid-30s — a feat almost unheard of at the time.
“He always took a youthful and progressive approach, the first to say ‘Let’s try something different’,” Professor Kovacs said.
“Carl was a little bit of a rebel. He found it very hard to discipline the students when they misbehaved because he remembered what he was like in their place. He was still mischievous even in his old age.”
Professor Wood is survived by his former wife and carer, Judy, his three adult children and one grandchild.