Robert Geoffrey Edwards, CBE (born 27 September 1925, Leeds) is a British physiologist and pioneer in reproductive medicine, and in-vitro fertilization in particular.
After finishing Manchester Central High School, he served in the British Army, and then completed his undergraduate studies in agriculture at the University of Wales, Bangor
. Subsequently he studied at the Institute of Animal Genetics, University of Edinburgh
. He received his Ph.D. in 1955. In 1963 he joined the University of Cambridge
About 1960 Edwards had 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 the 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.
The birth of Louise Brown
at 11:47 p.m. on 25 July 1978
at the Oldham General Hospital
made medical history: with in vitro fertilization
being successful, a new way had been opened to help infertile couples who had formerly no chance of having a baby.
Refinements in technology have increased pregnancy rates and it is estimated that in 2004 about 1.5 million children have been born by IVF.
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 has continued a productive career as a scientist and editor of noted medical journals.
- Steptoe, P. C., and Edwards, R. G. (1978) Birth after the reimplantation of a human embryo. Lancet. 2: 366.