Howard W Jones Jr

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 15 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4975
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Reproductive medicine specialist who helped achieve first birth by in vitro fertilisation in the US


In 1978 Howard W Jones Jr and his wife were grappling with a major decision. They were debating whether to remain in Baltimore as emeritus professors after their mandatory retirements from Johns Hopkins University, or to accept an offer to become co-chairs of the new obstetrics and gynaecology department at the Eastern Virginia Medical School Norfolk.

Jones, at the time 67 years old and officially retired, had been allowed to remain two additional years in the office he had shared with his wife and long time research partner, Georgeanna Jones. But at 65, she was now also on the verge of mandatory retirement.

Dr Howard and Dr Georgeanna, as they were known, were both born and raised in Baltimore. Both had studied medicine at Johns Hopkins in the 1930s and both had joined the faculty in 1948. They both worked hard for decades and acquired international reputations.

Jones was a pioneer in reproductive medicine and an outstanding surgeon. He was known worldwide for his work on genital abnormalities and reconstructions, and for performing some of the first sex change operations. In 1951 he had been the first doctor to examine cervical cancer patient Henrietta Lacks. Lacks’s tumour cells (Hela cells) became the first human line to reproduce continuously and they were later used in studies that resulted in the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, and other medical advances.

In 1939 Georgeanna Jones, a reproductive endocrinologist, had helped establish the division of reproductive medicine at Johns Hopkins, the first in the US, and in the following decades …

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