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Medical pioneer is still beating the odds


 Dr. Howard W. Jones, Jr., who turns 102 on Sunday, is celebrating the publication of his latest book.
Bill Tiernan/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 12/28/2012

BY ELIZABETH SIMPSON

The Virginian-Pilot

NORFOLK, Va.

--Dr. Howard W. Jones Jr., the venerable scientist behind the country's first in-vitro fertilization baby, has never been one to rest on his laurels.

Jones turns 102 on Sunday--an achievement in itself--but he's also celebrating the publication of his latest book: "Personhood Revisited: Reproductive Technology, Bioethics, Religion and the Law."

The book--his 11th--is an exploration of the thorny moral and legal implications of the in-vitro fertilization technique that was considered radical in this country 30 years ago but is commonplace today.

Jones and his wife, Dr. Georgeanna Seegar Jones, worked together at Eastern Virginia Medical School to produce this country's first in-vitro fertilization program, which led to the birth of Elizabeth Carr on Dec. 28, 1981.

Jones was 70 that day, and his wife was 69. Both of them had already retired from distinguished careers at Johns Hopkins University before heading to EVMS to achieve their most-celebrated work.

His wife died in 2005, after suffering from Alzheimer's. While Jones stopped seeing patients years ago, he continues to keep hours at the Jones Institute of Reproductive Medicine, attending conferences, talking with professors and students and working on books.

Jones spends the winter holidays in a condo he and his wife bought in Denver, where two of their three children live, and the rest of the year in Portsmouth. He was interviewed for this story by phone and said he is planning another book on the history of reproductive science.

He gets around by wheelchair but exercises daily. He jokingly harkens back to Works Progress Administration jobs during World War II to describe the purpose of his next book:

"Work designed to keep people occupied."

He said he's thankful for his health, his family and the people who help him get around.

"Longevity allows you to do things," he said.

Jones--humble, affable and always ready to talk science--doesn't mince words when stating his opinion.

In February, he lobbied Virginia legislators to kill the so-called "personhood bill," which would have written into state law the proposition that life begins at conception. Jones said it could interfere with infertility treatment and endanger women's health.


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