Father of Test Tube Babies Dies

IVF inventor Robert Edwards passed away

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The "father" of test tube babies, Sir Robert Edwards, passed away Wednesday. He and his research partner won the 2010 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work with IVF.

In vitro fertilization is the method in which a sperm fertilizes an egg outside of the human body.

Edwards and his research partner Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988, were responsible for the development of IVF technology. Edwards died after a long illness at age 87, The Guardian reported.

Edwards received his PhD in genetics from Edinburgh University in 1955 and then joined the faculty at Cambridge University in 1963. Before Cambridge, he had worked at the California Institute of Technology, the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill in north London and Glasgow University.

Edwards published a paper in The Lancet in 1965 that "...laid out the course of IVF studies for the next 20 to 30 years," The Guardian reported.

Working with animal models such as rabbit embryos, Edwards established several procedures in reproductive research that laid the groundwork for advances in human reproductive medicine.

Steptoe and Edwards teamed up in 1968 to work on achieving a successful birth from IVF. They did succeed in 1978 with the birth of Louise Brown, born July 25, as the world's first "test tube baby."

According to The Guardian, Edwards and Steptoe did not receive research funding from any United Kingdom funding organizations, and they faced opposition from the religious leaders, the press and even their colleagues.

Today, however, more than 4.5 million babies have been born by IVF.

Edwards continued to work in the fields of embryology and genetics and wrote a great deal about reproductive bioethics. He also founded the e-journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online in 2000.

Edwards is survived by his wife Ruth Fowler, who worked with him on his research investigating birth defects during egg maturation and fertilization, and by five daughters and 12 grandchildren.

Image of Edwards and Louise Brown, the first test tube baby, by AP photographer Dave Gaywod.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 10, 2013
Last Updated:
January 29, 2014