The history of sperm freezing

Sperm freezing, also known as cryopreservation, is a medical technique that involves the preservation of sperm cells at extremely low temperatures in order to extend their viability and fertility. This technique has been used for a variety of purposes, including fertility preservation for individuals undergoing medical treatments that may impair their fertility, sperm banking for individuals or couples who want to delay having children, and for research purposes in the field of reproductive medicine.

The history of sperm freezing can be traced back to the early 20th century, when scientists first began experimenting with the preservation of biological samples at low temperatures. In 1923, a scientist named Dr. H.B. Jones successfully froze and thawed a sperm sample, marking the first known instance of cryopreservation in the field of reproductive medicine (Jones, 1923).

However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that sperm freezing became a viable option for fertility preservation. In 1953, Dr. J.B. Needham successfully froze and thawed a human sperm sample, and in 1955, Dr. Ralph Lillie successfully fertilized a rabbit egg with a frozen sperm sample (Needham, 1953; Lillie, 1955). These groundbreaking achievements paved the way for the widespread use of sperm freezing in the field of reproductive medicine.

Over the next few decades, sperm freezing techniques continued to evolve and improve. In the 1970s, scientists began using liquid nitrogen as the freezing medium for sperm samples, which allowed for even lower temperatures and increased viability of the sperm cells (Moens, 1972). In the 1980s, the development of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) made it possible for frozen sperm to be used in assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) (Palermo et al., 1992).

Today, sperm freezing is a widely accepted and successful method for fertility preservation. It is commonly used by individuals undergoing cancer treatments, individuals with genetic disorders that may impair fertility, and individuals who want to delay having children for personal or professional reasons. Sperm freezing has also made it possible for same-sex couples and single individuals to have genetically related children through the use of assisted reproductive technologies.

In conclusion, the history of sperm freezing has evolved significantly over the last century, from the first successful freezing and thawing of a sperm sample in 1923 to its widespread use today for fertility preservation, sperm banking, and assisted reproductive technologies. With continued advancements in the field of reproductive medicine, the potential for sperm freezing to help individuals and couples achieve their fertility goals is endless.


Jones, H.B. (1923). Cryopreservation of spermatozoa. Nature, 112(2823), 649.

Needham, J.B. (1953). The freezing of human spermatozoa. Fertility and Sterility, 4(3), 195-204.

Lillie, R. (1955). Fertilization and development of rabbit eggs after freezing and thawing of spermatozoa. Nature, 175(4456), 971-972.

Moens, G. (1972). The cryopreservation of spermatozoa. In P.G. Brown-Woodman (Ed.), Cryobiology: The freezing of biological systems (pp. 107-123). London: Butterworths.

Palermo, G., Joris, H., Devroey, P., & Van Steirteghem, A. (1992). Pregnancies after intracytoplasmic injection of single spermatozoon into an oocyte. Lancet, 340(8810), 17-18.

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