Artificial Womb

If birds lay eggs, why shouldn’t humans do that, too?

Next Nature Network is currently doing a preliminary research into the concept, societal impact and challenges of the artificial womb. The timeline on this page functions as an incubator for medical, cultural and technological developments in relation to ‘ectogenesis.’

Essay by Hendrik-Jan Grievink

Ectogenesis, Artificial Womb, Human Egg?

Humanity is facing the disconnection between biological reproduction and the body, facilitated by the emerging technology of the Artificial Womb. Envisioned in bleak science fiction scenarios many times in the past, this technology is about to become a reality in our present. But how will it affect our culture – and how should that new culture be designed?…

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'What dreams will it realize and whose dreams will they be?'

A MUCH-NEEDED DISCUSSION

The goal of this project is to develop thought-provoking scenarios that facilitate a much-needed discussion about the way technology radically alters our attitude towards reproduction, gender, relationships and love in the 21st century. We highly value your feedback or input, contributions can be sent to womb@nextnature.net.

320 BCE

World’s first Cesarian

The first recorded child to have survived a cesarean delivery was thought to be the second Mauryan emperor of India, Bindusara. Born in 320 BCE, Bindusara was cut from the body of his deceased mother.

400 BCE

Myth of Princes Grown in Jars

One the earliest mentioning of ex vivo birth is found in 400BCE in ancient Indian Sanskrit epics. This age-old myth describes 100 princes created from a jar of ghee.

1537

Homunculus: the Semi-Human

Looking back at records from the 16th and 17th century, alchemists were in the pursuit of producing a fully formed miniature human body; the homunculus from a flask.

1857

The First Baby Incubators

The invention of baby incubators ignited a flood of popular and professional incitement over the thought of reducing premature infant mortality.

1860

Baby Incubator Built by Zoo Director in Paris

Built by Odile Martin, director of the Paris Zoo, this incubator was constructed similar to a chicken incubator, and installed at the Maternity Hospital of Paris in 1881.

1896

Baby Incubators in Coney Island

In 1896, Dr. Couney incubated premature babies, saving at least 6.500 premature infants from dying. He did so by putting them on public display on Coney Island.

1916

Artificial Womb Appeared in Cinema

The artificial womb made its first cinematic appearance in the film Homunculus by Otto Rippert, becoming one of the harbingers of the horror genre.

1923

Term ‘Ectogenesis’ coined

Ectogenesis – the gestation of human embryos in artificial circumstances outside a human uterus – made its first appearance in the sf essay Daedalus, or, Science and the Future by British scientist J. B. S. Haldane. Read more.

1932

“Brave New World” Published

The novel Brave New World brought the idea of the artificial uterus to the big audience, and still holds value as one of the key references when debating about human reproductive technologies today. Read more.

1955

Artificial Womb Drawing Patented

Emanuel M. Greenberg patented his Illustration of an artificial womb, his invention contained all the apparatus he thought would be required to grow a baby. Read more.

1967

Abortion Regulated as Legal in the UK

The Abortion Act was introduced to counter unsafe illegal abortion and maternal mortality, and has given millions of women access to safe and legal abortions in the UK ever since.

1978

World’s First ‘Test Tube Baby’ Born

Louise Brown was world’s first test-tube baby, born in 1978. The inventors of the IVF procedure were awarded with a Nobel Prize in Medicine 33 years later.

1996

World’s First Artificial Womb in Experiment

Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara at Juntendo University in Tokyo developed a system called EUFI, or extrauterine fetal incubation, and kept a premature goat fetus alive for three weeks.

1999

Ectogenesis Enters The Matrix

The Matrix narrated a future where humans lived in a simulated reality in which physical bodies were submerged in pods and used for energy to power the system.

2014

First Womb Transplant Baby Born

A Swedish mother who had her uterus removed due to cancer in her 20s gave birth at 36 and become known as world’s first person to undergo a uterus transplant.

2015

Artificial Placenta Approaches

Scientists from University of Michigan claimed to have made the world’s first artificial placenta that used a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung and right back into the bloodstream.

2016

Human Embryo Lives 13 Days in Lab

A team of biologists from the UK and the US successfully kept a human embryo alive for 13 days under laboratory conditions, passing the previous record of 9 days.

2016

Japanese Students Hatch a Chick Outside the Shell

A viral video made waves depicting a group of Japanese students cracking an egg, dropping it into a plastic pouch, and incubating it until a baby chick emerges several days later.

2017

Premature Lamb Incubates Fetal Lamb

A lamb born at the equivalent of 23 weeks in a human gestational period was kept alive in an artificial womb and developed just as if it was in a normal womb. Read more.

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