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"As opposed to illiteracy, where you can't read, aliteracy means that you can but you just can't be bothered. They say aliteracy is on the rise these days."
- Peter Watts

Synthetic Babies  
  A means of gestating eggs to term is found.  

This is the first science-fictional reference (or any other reference, for that matter) to an artificial womb that I can find.

At that time the human race was not only degenerating as individuals but disappearing as a species. It was then that our scientists began to talk about synthetic babies...

It was determined that the eggs of the sea urchin would grow into mature adults without the aid of the male; all that was necessary was to put them in water containing certain salts at a certain temperature.

“These experiments finally ended in the discovery that the human ovary could be kept alive and functioning under certain conditions in a glass vessel. Such an ovary was able to develop and expel a perfect ovum every twenty-eight days. By a process similar to that used with the eggs of the sea urchin, these ova could not only be kept alive but could be developed into fully matured babies. At a certain point in their growth, they were taken out of the sterile glucose solution and respiration started with a pulmometer. As far as any tests were concerned, they were just like all the other babies.


(Glass Vessel Ovary by Dr. David Keller)

“A great many of these synthetic babies were made and allowed to grow up under ideal conditions. It was soon discovered that they could be kept free from all the diseases of childhood, they could grow into vigorous adults and be compared very favorably with the best of the race — provided they came from the ovary of a woman who was perfectly normal. That caused a lot of thinking and the thinking ended in the rapid collection of material and building of large numbers of special laboratories to grow these synthetic babies in.

From A Biological Experiment, by David H. Keller.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1928
Additional resources -

It was decided that this was the only way to birth perfect babies:

The records show that the last child was born on the western continent on July 4th, 3009. Since then the race has been kept alive by the production of synthetic babies. About one hundred and fifty thousand babies are produced every year. They are all perfect in every way because any who show defects are not allowed to develop. The Government keeps them in nurseries till they are called for. We saw how that happened in the case of your sister and brother-in-law. After they were forty years old, they decided to apply for a permit to take a baby and they asked for a four-year-old child.


(Synthetic Babies by Dr. David Keller)

“These babies, grown under ideal conditions, the offspring of tested ovaries, have in a thousand years saved our race from degeneration. In fact, everybody now is perfect in practically every way. There is little sickness and people finally die painlessly of old age.

Compare to synthetic life from Synthetic (1930) by Charles Cloukey, Bokanovski's Process from Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley, artificial womb from Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley, procreative stump from Hellstrom's Hive (1972) by Frank Herbert and uterine replicator from Shards of Honor (1986) by Lois McMaster Bujold.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A Biological Experiment
  More Ideas and Technology by David H. Keller
  Tech news articles related to A Biological Experiment
  Tech news articles related to works by David H. Keller

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