Robert Edwards, the British scientist whose pioneering research with his late colleague Patrick Steptoe led to the birth of the world’s first “test-tube baby” in 1978, has won 2010 Nobel Prize for medicine.
Born in Manchester in 1925, Professor Robert Edwards started his research on human fertilization at the National Institute for Medical Research in London in 1958, and later moved to Cambridge where, with Steptoe, he founded the Bourn Hall Clinic, the world’s first IVF centre.
Steptoe died in 1988. Despite his significant contribution, he cannot be jointly awarded with Professor Edwards because rules do not permit for the prize to be awarded posthumously.
The Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, which awarded the prize worth ten million Swedish Kronor, described his work as “a milestone of modern medicine.” “His work has made possible the treatment of infertility, a medical condition that affects a large proportion of humanity including more than 10% of couples worldwide,” it said in a statement.
The 85-year-old scientist Robert Edwards was reported to be too ill to comment. “The success of this research has touched the lives of millions of people worldwide. His dedication and single-minded determination, despite opposition from many quarters, has led to the successful application of his pioneering research,” his family said.
He brought hope to millions of childless couples
Reacting to the Nobel award for British scientist Robert Edwards, Professor Basil Tarlatzis, past-president of the International Federation of Fertility Societies, said it was “a well-deserved honour.” Mr. Tarlatzis said the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) had “opened new avenues of hope for millions of couples throughout the world.”
But, perhaps, no one was more delighted than Louise Brown, who owed her birth to the IVF treatment devised by Professor Edwards and his late colleague Patrick Steptoe. “It’s fantastic news. Me and mum are so glad that one of the pioneers of IVF has been given the recognition he deserves. We hold Bob in great affection and are delighted to send our personal congratulations to him and his family at this time,” said Ms. Brown, now 32. Her birth on July 25, 1978 prompted headlines around the world. Since then some four million babies have been born using IVF.
For Professor Edwards and his colleagues it was a “Eureka” moment they discovered that they had succeeded in creating a fertilised human embryo in 1968 but it took another 10 years before the procedure was sufficiently refined to enable the birth of a baby. “I’ll never forget the day I looked down the microscope and saw something funny in the cultures. I looked down the microscope and what I saw was a human blastocyst gazing up at me. I thought: ‘We’ve done it,’” Professor Edwards recalled in a speech two years ago.
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