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Robert G. Edwards
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Doctor
    (September 27, 1925-April 10, 2013)
    Born in Batley, England, United Kingdom
    Physiologist and pioneer in in-vitro fertilization (IVF)
    With surgeon Patrick Steptoe, pioneered conception through IVF, leading to the birth of the first ‘test tube baby’ Louise Brown (July 25, 1978)
    With Steptoe, founded Bourn Hall Clinic, the first center for IVF (1980)
    Received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing IVF (2010)
    Knighted for services to reproductive biology (2011)
    His request for financial support from the British government was rejected on the grounds that he should perfect the process in other primates first before attempting human experimentation. (At the time, he and Steptoe had only had success in rabbits.)
    The committee reviewing his grant application also cited their discomfort with his ‘tendency to seek publicity in the press, television and so on.’
    Over a six year period, he and Steptoe implanted 100 fertilized eggs without getting a viable pregnancy (1972-78).
    His work was condemned by the Vatican.
    By the time the Nobel Prize committee got around to giving him the award, he was too senile to appreciate it.
    He was married to Ruth Fowler for 59 years until his death.
    He had to overcome many technical hurdles.
    Safety fears turned out to be unfounded as long-term studies have shown IVF children to be as healthy as other children.
    He gave hope to the estimated 10% of couples unable to conceive naturally.
    By the time he received the Nobel Prize, an estimated four million children had been conceived through IVF.
    First test-tube baby Louise Brown said, ‘I’ve always regarded Robert Edwards as like a grandfather to me.’
    He said, ‘We had a lot of critics, but we fought like hell for our patients.’

Credit: C. Fishel


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