Robert Edwards (physiologist)

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
(Redirected from Robert G. Edwards)
Jump to: navigation, search
Sir Robert Edwards
Born Robert Geoffrey Edwards
(1925-09-27)27 September 1925[1]
Batley, England
Died 10 April 2013(2013-04-10) (aged 87)
near Cambridge, England
Alma mater
Thesis The experimental induction of heteroploidy in the mouse (1955)
Known for Pioneer of in-vitro fertilisation
Notable awards
Spouse Ruth Fowler Edwards[1]

Sir Robert Geoffrey Edwards, CBE, FRS[3][4][5] (27 September 1925 – 10 April 2013) was an English physiologist and pioneer in reproductive medicine, and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) in particular. Along with the surgeon Patrick Steptoe,[6] Edwards successfully pioneered conception through IVF, which led to the birth of Louise Brown [7] on 25 July 1978.[8][9] They founded the first IVF program for infertile patients and trained other scientists in their techniques. Edwards was the founding editor-in-chief of Human Reproduction in 1986.[10] In 2010, Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the development of in vitro fertilization".[11][12][13]

Education and early career

Edwards was born in Batley, Yorkshire, and attended Manchester Central High School[1] on Whitworth Street in central Manchester, after which he served in the British Army, and then completed his undergraduate studies in biology at Bangor University.[14][15] He studied at the Institute of Animal Genetics and Embryology at the University of Edinburgh, where he was awarded a PhD in 1955.[16] After a year as a postdoctoral research fellow at the California Institute of Technology he joined the scientific staff of the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill. After a further year at the University of Glasgow, in 1963 he moved to the University of Cambridge as Ford Foundation Research Fellow at the Department of Physiology, and a member of Churchill College, Cambridge. He was appointed Reader in physiology in 1969.[17]

Human fertilisation

Circa 1960 Edwards started to study human fertilisation, and he continued his work at Cambridge, laying the groundwork for his later success. In 1968 he was able to achieve fertilisation of a human egg in the laboratory and started to collaborate with Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologic surgeon from Oldham. Edwards developed human culture media to allow the fertilisation and early embryo culture, while Steptoe utilized laparoscopy to recover ovocytes from patients with tubal infertility. Their attempts met significant hostility and opposition,[18] including a refusal of the Medical Research Council to fund their research and a number of lawsuits.[19] Additional historical information on this controversial era in the development of IVF has been published.[20]

The birth of Louise Brown, the world's first 'test-tube baby', at 11:47 pm on 25 July 1978 at the Oldham General Hospital made medical history: in vitro fertilisation meant a new way to help infertile couples who formerly had no possibility of having a baby.

Bourn Hall Clinic

Refinements in technology have increased pregnancy rates and it is estimated that in 2010 about 4 million children have been born by IVF,[11] with approximately 170,000 coming from donated oocyte and embryos.[21][22][23] Their breakthrough laid the groundwork for further innovations such as intracytoplasmatic sperm injection ICSI, embryo biopsy (PGD), and stem cell research.

Edwards and Steptoe founded the Bourn Hall Clinic as a place to advance their work and train new specialists. Steptoe died in 1988. Edwards continued on in his career as a scientist and an editor of medical journals.

Honours and awards

Edwards received numerous honours and awards including:

  • Edwards was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1984.[3][4]
  • In 1994, Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Valencia (Spain).
  • In 2001, he was awarded the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award by the Lasker Foundation "for the development of in vitro fertilization, a technological advance that has revolutionized the treatment of human infertility."[24]
  • In 2007, he was ranked 26th in The Daily Telegraph's list of 100 greatest living geniuses.[25]
  • In 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Huddersfield.
  • On 4 October 2010, it was announced that Edwards had been awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the development of in-vitro fertilization.[11] The Nobel Committee praised him for advancing treatment of infertility and noted that IVF babies have similar health statuses to ordinary babies.[26] Göran K. Hansson, secretary of the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, announced the news.[26] The first child of IVF Louise Brown described the award as "fantastic news".[27] A Vatican official condemned the move as "completely out of order".[27][28] As mentioned by Simon Fishel “In December 2010, at the Nobel awards ceremony that was full of pathos in Bob’s absence, these precious words were spoken, ‘‘In the absence of this year’s Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, I ask Professor Edwards’ wife and long-term scientific companion, Dr Ruth Fowler Edwards, to come forward and receive his Prize from the hands of His Majesty the King’’.[29]
  • Edwards was knighted in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to human reproductive biology.[30][31]

Personal life

Edwards married Ruth Fowler Edwards (1930-2013), also a scientist with significant work, granddaughter of 1908 Nobel laureate physicist Ernest Rutherford and daughter of physicist Ralph Fowler, in 1956.[32] The couple had 5 daughters and 12 grandchildren.[33]


Edwards died at home near Cambridge, England[33] on 10 April 2013 after a long lung illness.[34] A spokesperson for the University of Cambridge said "He will be greatly missed by family, friends and colleagues."[35] The Guardian reported that, as of Edwards' death, more than four million births had resulted from IVF.[35] Louise Brown said "His work, along with Patrick Steptoe, has brought happiness and joy to millions of people all over the world by enabling them to have children."[36] According to the BBC, his work was motivated by his belief that "the most important thing in life is having a child."[36]

A plaque was unveiled at the Bourn Hall Clinic in July 2013 by Louise Brown and Alastair MacDonald - the world's first IVF baby boy - commemorating Steptoe and Edwards.[37][38]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 EDWARDS, Sir Robert (Geoffrey). Who's Who. 2014 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (subscription required)
  2. Robert Edwards profile at Lasker Foundation
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Gardner, Richard (2015). "Sir Robert Geoffrey Edwards CBE. 27 September 1925 — 10 April 2013". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. Royal Society. 61. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2014.0020. ISSN 0080-4606.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Johnson, M. H. (2011). "Robert Edwards: The path to IVF". Reproductive BioMedicine Online. 23 (2): 245–262. doi:10.1016/j.rbmo.2011.04.010. PMC 3171154. PMID 21680248.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Fisher, S. J.; Giudice, L. C. (2013). "Robert G. Edwards (1925-2013)". Science. 340 (6134): 825. doi:10.1126/science.1239644. PMID 23687039.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Edwards, R. G. (1996). "Patrick Christopher Steptoe, C. B. E. 9 June 1913-22 March 1988". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 42: 434–426. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1996.0027. PMID 11619339.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Steptoe, P. C.; Edwards, R. G. (1978). "Birth After the Reimplantation of a Human Embryo". The Lancet. 312 (8085): 366. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(78)92957-4. PMID 79723.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "1978: First 'test tube baby' born". BBC. 1978-07-25. Retrieved 2009-06-13. The birth of the world's first "test tube baby" has been announced in Manchester (England). Louise Brown was born shortly before midnight in Oldham and District General Hospital<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Moreton, Cole (2007-01-14). "World's first test-tube baby Louise Brown has a child of her own". London: Independent. Retrieved 2010-05-22. The 28-year-old, whose pioneering conception by in-vitro fertilisation made her famous around the world ... The fertility specialists Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards became the first to successfully carry out IVF by extracting an egg, impregnating it with sperm and planting the resulting embryo back into the mother.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Fraser LR. "In Appreciation of Professor R. G. Edwards, Founding Editor of the Human Reproduction Journals". MHR 6 (5):3, 2000. doi:10.1093/molehr/6.5.3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – Press Release". 2010-10-04. Retrieved 2010-10-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Jones Jr, H. W.; Gosden, R. G. (2013). "Professor Sir Robert Edwards, 1925-2013". Fertility and Sterility. 99 (7): 1799–800. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.04.042. PMID 23726252.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Johnson, M. H.; Franklin, S. B.; Cottingham, M.; Hopwood, N. (2010). "Why the Medical Research Council refused Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe support for research on human conception in 1971". Human Reproduction. 25 (9): 2157. doi:10.1093/humrep/deq155. PMID 20657027.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "SLA Biomedical & Life Sciences Division Blog: Robert G. Edwards : 2010 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine". 2010-10-07. Retrieved 2013-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Health Zone 24x7 - Health - Fitness - Medicine - Medical". Retrieved 2013-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Edwards, Robert Geoffrey (1955). The Experimental Induction of Heteroploidy in the Mouse (PhD thesis). University of Edinburgh.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Professor Sir Robert Edwards". Telegraph. 2013-04-10. Retrieved 2013-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Myers, PZ (2010-10-04). "A surprising Nobel". Retrieved 2010-10-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Wade, Nicholas (October 4, 2010). "Pioneer of in Vitro Fertilization Wins Nobel Prize". New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Joseph D. Schulman, M.D., 2010. "Robert G. Edwards – A Personal Viewpoint" ISBN 1456320750
  21. First live birth donation[dead link]
  22. "Home — OBG Management". Retrieved 2013-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  23. "Library". Retrieved 2013-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research 2001". 2007-09-16. Retrieved 2010-10-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Top 100 living geniuses". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2010-10-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Nobel in medicine for IVF pioneer". The Times of India. 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2010-10-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Vatican official criticises Nobel win for IVF pioneer". BBC News. 2010-10-04. Retrieved 2010-10-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Vatican slams Nobel win for IVF doc". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2010-10-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Fishel, S. (2014). "Ruth Fowler (1930–2013)". Reproductive BioMedicine Online. 28: 3. doi:10.1016/j.rbmo.2013.10.005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59808. p. 1. 11 June 2011.
  31. "Queen's birthday honours list: Knights". London: The Guardian. 2011-06-11. Retrieved 11 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 12 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. 33.0 33.1 Kolata, Gina (10 April 2013). "Robert G. Edwards Dies at 87; Changed Rules of Conception With First 'Test Tube Baby'". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "IVF pioneer dies". Cambridge News. Retrieved 10 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. 35.0 35.1 Jones, Sam (10 April 2013). "IVF pioneer Robert Edwards dies aged 87". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. 36.0 36.1 "Test-tube baby pioneer Sir Robert Edwards dies". BBC News. 10 April 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>