Two male British scientists gained worldwide fame as the developers of in vitro fertilisation, but both viewed a woman, Jean Purdy, as an equal partner in the breakthrough, records made public Monday show. One of the male scientists, Dr. Robert Edwards, tried to have her work recognised, but instead it has gone largely unknown for four decades.

"I regard her as an equal contributor to Patrick Steptoe and myself," Edwards wrote in a letter to Oldham Health Authority in 1981, adding that Steptoe had also acknowledged Purdy's role in a book published by the two male scientists.

Edwards' letter was