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Robert G. Edwards
Born 27 September 1925 (1925-09-27) (age 85)
Nationality United Kingdom
Institutions University of Cambridge
Alma mater University of Wales, Bangor
University of Edinburgh
Known for reproductive medicine
in-vitro fertilization
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2010)

Robert Geoffrey Edwards, CBE FRS (born 27 September 1925, Manchester) is a British biologist and pioneer in reproductive biology and medicine, and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in particular. Along with surgeon Patrick Steptoe (1913 – 1988), Edwards successfully pioneered conception through IVF, which led to the birth of the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, on 25 July 1978.[1][2] He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the development of in vitro fertilization".[3]


Early career

After finishing Manchester Central High School on Whitworth Street in central Manchester, he served in the British Army, and then completed his undergraduate studies in Biological Sciences at the University of Wales, Bangor, he achieved degree in Biology with major specialization in Zoology, and minor specialization in Botany. Subsequently he studied at the Institute of Animal Genetics and Embryology, at the faculty of Science at University of Edinburgh. He received his Ph.D. in 1955 and joined the University of Cambridge in 1963.

Human fertilization

In about 1960 Edwards started to study human fertilization, and he continued his work at Cambridge, laying the groundwork for his later success. In 1968 he was able to achieve fertilization 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 fertilization and early embryo culture, while Steptoe utilized laparoscopy to recover ovocytes from patients with tubal infertility. Their attempts met significant hostility and opposition,[4] including a refusal of the British government to fund their research and a number of lawsuits[5]

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 fertilization meant a new way to help infertile couples who formerly had no possibility of having a baby.

Refinements in technology have increased pregnancy rates and it is estimated that in 2010 about 4 million children have been born by IVF[3] with approximately 170,000 coming from donated oocyte and embryos [6][7] [8] 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 a career as a scientist and an editor of medical journals.


  • In 1984, Edwards was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.
  • 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."[9]
  • In 2007, he was ranked 26th in The Daily Telegraph's list of 100 greatest living geniuses.[10]
  • 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.[3] The Nobel Committee praised him for advancing treatment of infertility and noted that IVF babies have similar health statuses to ordinary babies.[11] Göran K. Hansson, secretary of the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, announced the news.[11] Test-tube baby Louise Brown described the award as "fantastic news".[12] A Vatican official condemned the move as "completely out of order".[12][13]

Selected publications


His wife is Ruth Fowler Edwards, the granddaughter of physicist Ernest Rutherford and daughter of physicist Ralph Fowler.


  1. ^ "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" 
  2. ^ 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." 
  3. ^ a b c "The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - Press Release". 2010-10-04. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  4. ^ Myers, PZ (2010-10-04). "A surprising Nobel". Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  5. ^ Wade, Nicholas (October 4, 2010). "Pioneer of in Vitro Fertilization Wins Nobel Prize". New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2010. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research 2001". 2007-09-16. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  10. ^ "Top 100 living geniuses". The Daily Telegraph. 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  11. ^ a b "Nobel in medicine for IVF pioneer". The Times of India. 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  12. ^ a b "Vatican official criticises Nobel win for IVF pioneer". BBC News. 2010-10-04. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  13. ^ "Vatican slams Nobel win for IVF doc". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 

External links


Simple English

Robert G. Edwards
BornSeptember 27, 1925
Manchester, England
Alma materUniversity of Wales, University of Edinburgh.
Known forInventing in vitro fertilisation
Notable prizesNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2010)

Robert Geoffrey Edwards (born 27 September 1925, Manchester[1]) is a British scientist who won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in developing in vitro fertilisation (IVF).[2] This method is sometimes called making "test tube babies". He began work on his ideas in the 1950's, and the first test tube baby, Louise Brown, was born on July 25, 1978.[2] His research partner from 1968 was Patrick Steptoe (1913-1988).[3] By 2010, more than 4 million babies had been born using the IVF method.[4]

Early life

Edwards served in the military in World War II.[1] In 1948, after the war, Edwards went to study at the University of Wales, then to the University of Edinburgh in 1951, where he completed his PhD. His studies had been on how embyros developed in mice.[1] He had a research position at the California Institute of Technology in 1957.[3] In 1958 he returned to England and began work for the National Institute of Medical Research.[3] While at the Institute he began to study human fertilisation.[1] In 1962, he took a up a new job at the University of Glasgow, but in 1963 went to Cambridge University.[3] In 1965 he went back to the US where he was a visiting scientist at John Hopkins University and later at the University of North Carolina.[3] he returned to Cambridge and taught physiology from 1969.


While scientists had some success in fertilising rabbit eggs in a laboratory, Edwards soon discovered that the process for humans was quite different and much more complex. He spent many years studying the human egg, and how it could best be fertilised by sperm outside the body. He succeeded in fertilising an egg in 1969, but they did not develop.[1] Patrick Steptoe was a British gynecologist who had done a lot of work using a laparoscope to investigate the ovaries. Using the laparoscope he was able to take eggs directly from the ovaries.[1] Edwards was able to use these eggs and successfully fertilize them in a test tube, actually a cell culture dish.[1] This discovery caused a lot of debate and discussions about whether this sort of study should be allowed to continue.


he developed in vitro fertilisation


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