Did you know? Charles Darwin, father behind the Theory of Evolution and “Survival of the Fittest” was himself born premature in the year 1809. Many doctors at the time held the view that premature babies were genetically inferior “weaklings”. Without intervention, the vast majority of infants born prematurely were destined to die and survivors were certain to face a lifetime of disability.

According to WHO, an estimated 15 million babies are born too early or preterm every year; defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. This is more than 1 in 10 babies. Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age, responsible for approximately 1 million deaths in 2015.

In fact, throughout the history of mankind, there are many “miracle preemies” who battled incredible odds to survive in the first place given the conditions and knowledge at the time. They then went on to mark incredible achievements in the fields of science, academia and as our world’s great leaders. 

Here are a few more famous high-achievers who had a premature start to life:

Albert Einstein was born two months premature in Germany in March 1879. Widely considered the greatest physicist of all time, he is most famous for his influential contributions to the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was once quoted as saying “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” This rang true for Einstein, who experienced small beginnings in a time where neonatology was in its infancy.

Sir Winston Churchill, the celebrated British leader and statesman who served as Prime Minister rallied the British people during World War II and led his country from the brink of defeat to victory was also a preemie. Born two months prematurely in 1874 after his mother took a fall, we would not be living by Sir Winston Churchill’s inspirational words, if it were not for his mother’s courage in 1874. 

“There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.”

Sir Isaac Newton was born in 1642 and weighed just three pounds. He was not expected to survive. Fortunately he did, and lived to witness the apple’s fall from the tree, triggering theories of gravity and laws of motion, fundamental to physics and astronomy today. One cannot imagine a world without the survival of this preemie. 

Persistent health inequity and unmet need

There is however, a dramatic difference in the survival of premature babies depending on where they are born. A recent research paper from The Lancet shows that despite the significant improvement, there still remains a persistent and urgent need for equal access to timely and life-saving newborn health care in China. The risk of newborn death is 6 times worse in Western vs Eastern provinces.

The very large number of preterm births and accelerated preterm birth rate in China are cause from concern, September 2021 Lancet Global Health report. CMF’s Technical Advisory Board Member, Dr. Chen Chao, informs us that 1.3 million babies are born too soon each year in China; that is one baby every 2 minutes. Universally, low economic status is the risk factor for premature birth. China is no exception, with rural county families suffering the greatest loss.

To survive and have a healthy start to life, a preemie just needs time to develop in the intensive care unit, under the careful watch of trained neonatal doctors and nurses. CMF’s Every Baby Rescued initiative has made this possible in 28 county hospitals in cities all over China over the past 18 months.

We believe any baby could be the next Darwin or Einstein, regardless of when and where they are born.

Your support can reduce preventable deaths and long-term disability caused by preterm births. A donation from you ensures that we can continue to bring life-saving newborn health care to babies and families who still do not have access to this basic need.

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