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The worst day of my life turns out to be the best


India, the third baby
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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And then, when we had them, we kind of relaxed, but we still had some eggs from the in vitro and we didn't want to throw them away, so the doctor said, 'Well, what do you do?' And we said, 'Well, we have the frozen eggs, so let's try implanting them again.' But I said to the doctor... I said, 'You know, we've always been following the protocol.' The protocol was you take the fertilised eggs and you leave them in a petri dish for two days, in those days, and then you implant them. And I said, 'Why don't... where these two days come from?' And he was, like, 'Well, that's just the first thing that worked, so we do that.' And I was like, 'Well, let's try leaving them in for a little longer, because that isn't working for us. Let's try stretching it out and doing it a little further' and they're like, 'Okay, sure'. I mean... because they didn't really know what they were doing yet. So they did that and it worked, and that's where India came from. So all of a sudden, we had three babies. It also became the way that they started doing in vitro after that. They did experiments and they changed it, and now they always leave it in for longer. But India was the first one that was born under that protocol.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes George Dyson

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: child, birth, IVF, in vitro fertilisation

Duration: 1 minute, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017