In The News

IVF pioneer Sir Robert Edwards passes away

IVF pioneer Sir Robert Edwards passes away

THE death has taken place of Sir Robert Edwards whose pioneering work with Patrick Steptoe on the use of IVF produced the world’s first test-tube baby. He was 87.

The birth of Louise Brown in England in 1978 was the result of years of work by Sir Robert, who was a physiologist, and Dr. Steptoe, who was an obstetrician and gynaecologist, 

Their work on developing in vitro fertilization was to revolutionise reproduction medicine across the world and help bring the joy of parenthood to millions of people who feared they would never have children. It is believed the use of IVF has resulted in more than five million births.

Sir Robert was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010 for his development of IVF. He was knighted in 2011.

It was at Cambridge University in the 1960s that Sir Robert had first began to experiment with ways of creating life outside of the human body. He based his initial efforts on earlier research which had proved that egg cells from rabbits could be fertilised in test tubes. 

His big breakthrough came one day in 1968 when he succeeded in developing a human blastocyst — an embryo that has developed for five or six days after fertilisation — outside of the womb. Ten years later, Louise Brown was born. Her sister Natalie was also born through IVF.

Now aged 34 and married, Louise joined the many tributes to Sir Robert. 

She said: “It was really sad to hear the news. I have always regarded Robert Edwards as like a grandfather to me. 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.

“I am glad he lived long enough to be recognised with a Nobel Prize for his work and his legacy will live on with all the IVF work being carried out throughout the world.”

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