History Book

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

Today, the 40th anniversary of the world’s first test-tube baby.

Plus, the first salvage mission of one of the world’s most famous shipwrecks.

NICK EICHER, HOST: But first, President Harry Truman signs executive order 9981, taking an important step forward for civil rights.

Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: On July 26th, 1948, 70 years ago, U.S. President Harry S. Truman desegregates the military. One year earlier he spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the closing session of the NAACP annual conference:

TRUMAN: Recent events in the United States and abroad have made us realize there is no justifiable reason for discrimination because of ancestry, religion, or color…

Audio courtesy of the History Channel. That same year, Truman formed the President’s Committee on Civil Rights, condemning all discrimination, in all its forms. The president also called for legislative action to end segregation across all branches of the military.

In January 1948, Truman decides not to wait for Congress, and announces he will sign an executive order to end military segregation—though he waits nearly 6 months to do so.

Executive Order 9981 acknowledges that the process will take time, saying the policy should be “put into effect as rapidly as possible,” but with regard to the time necessary to avoid impairing “efficiency or morale.”

The military takes immediate steps to implement the order, but it takes longer than many hope. It’s not until after the Korean War that segregation finally ends in the U.S. military.

Next, July 25th, 1978, 40 years ago this week:

AUDIO: Sound of doctor narrating the c-section prep

That’s British doctor John Webster, preparing for what seems like an ordinary C-Section.

AUDIO: Sound of baby crying

It’s a baby girl: Louise Joy Brown—5 pounds, 12 ounces. What makes this delivery special is that Louise is the first baby successfully carried to term after being conceived by in vitro fertilization, or IVF.

John and Lesley Brown are the parents:

FATHER: When I first saw her, she was just a beautiful baby…she was perfect. MOTHER: It was hard to believe it happened to me. It was just a dream…  

Louise endured more than 40 tests after her birth to make sure she had no abnormalities. Doctors have closely monitored her throughout her life, and found her quote “normal” in every way.

Despite the success of that first IVF baby, the process remains controversial, in part because it allows same-sex couples to conceive children.

IVF also involves creating more embryos than are used in treatment, so the leftover embryos are either frozen or destroyed. That leads many Christians to avoid the procedure over ethical and theological concerns—while others, seek to adopt the so-called “snowflake babies.”

Last year, Elle Magazine reported there are more than 1 million frozen embryos in America alone.

And finally, July 27th, 19-87 – RMS Titanic Inc. begins the first salvage expedition of the Titanic wreckage.

From July 27th to September 10th, RMS Titanic Inc. collects more than 1,800 artifacts. The company returns five more times over the next 13 years and in the end, brings up more than 6,000 artifacts—some to be sold to the highest bidder.

The salvage expeditions and the succeeding auctions of Titanic artifacts don’t sit well with many families touched by the tragedy. Rob Gordon lost two relatives in the sinking, and in 2012 he told CBS Morning News he believes the site should be protected, and left alone.

GORDON: I find it offensive. My great aunt’s wedding dress is down there…it’s a grave. And I just think it’s wrong to sift through them and put a price tag on them…

As the Titanic lies in international waters, no single state can claim rights to the artifacts, but in 2012, 100 years after the accident, the United Nations officially declared the underwater wreckage a “Cultural Heritage” site, protecting it from future looting.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Louise Brown)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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