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Fertility clinic founder may have fathered up to 600 children

Sperm and BPA

A pioneering British scientist who set up a controversial London fertility clinic with his wife in the 1940s may have fathered up to 600 children, according to research from two men who have discovered they are his biological sons.

Barry Stevens, a documentary film-maker from Canada, and David Gollancz, a London-based barrister, say that on the basis of recent DNA tests Dr. Bertold Wiesner made up to two-thirds of the clinic's total sperm donations.

In 2007, DNA tests on 18 people who had been conceived at the clinic between 1943 and 1962 showed that 12 of the group -- two-thirds -- were Wiesner's children, The (London) Sunday Times reported.

Using these results, Stevens and Gollancz believe that Wiesner, who died in 1972, must have fathered as many as 600 children.

"A conservative estimate is that he would have been making 20 donations a year," Gollancz said.

"Using standard figures for the number of live births which result, including allowances for twins and miscarriages, I estimate that he is responsible for between 300 and 600 children."

That figure would dwarf previous records. Last year it emerged that one anonymous sperm donor in the US had fathered 150 children.

The Barton Clinic, set up by Wiesner, a biologist, and his wife Mary Barton, a doctor, has long been surrounded by controversy because it was believed to have used sperm donations drawn from their small circle of academic friends.

In 2001, it was revealed Derek Richter, a neuro-chemist, fathered more than 100 of the clinic's children.

After the British Medical Journal published an article from the couple on their work in 1945, a peer in Britain's House of Lords denounced their activity as  "the work of Beelzebub" and the then Archbishop of Canterbury called for their clinic to be outlawed.