Robert Edwards of Britain (= U.K.) who won 2010 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for the development of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is known as father of test tube babies. Immediately after finishing Manchester Central High School on Whitworth Street in Central Manchester, heart of the historical industrial city (now industries have been closed), he served in British Army and then completed his undergraduate studies in Biological sciences at the University of Wales, Bangor.
He obtained degree in Biology with major specialization in Zoology and minor specialization in Botany, and subsequently he studied at Institute of Animal Genetics and Embryology, at the faculty of Science at University of Edinburgh. He got Ph.D. in 1955 and joined University of Cambridge in 1963.
Edwards started to study human fertilization and he continued his work in collaboration with Patrick Steptoe, a gynaecologist surgeon from Oldham. Edwards developed human culture media to allow the fertilization and early embryo culture while Steptoe utilized laparoscopy to receive oocytes from patients with tubal infertility.
It was made an ethical issue connected with beliefs and principles about what is right and wrong. Their attempts faced significant hostility and opposition including a refusal of the British Government to fund their research and number of law suits. He developed technique in which egg cells are removed from a woman, fertilized outside her body and then implanted into the womb, together with British Gynaecologist surgeon Patrick Steptoe who died in 1988.
The birth of Louise Brown the world’s first ‘test tube baby’ at 11 =47 p.m. on 25th My 1978 at 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. Refinement in the field of this technology has increased pregnancy rates and it is estimated that up to 2010 nearly 4 million children have been born by IVF with about 1, 70,000 coming from donated oocyte and embryos.
This was a major breakthrough that also lead to prepare ground work for further innovations like intra cytoplasmic sperm injection, embryo biopsy and stem cell (the cells which retain the capacity to self renew as well as to produce pregnancy which can generate cells of multiple lineage) research. Edwards and Steptoe founded BOURN HALL CLINIC as place to advance their work and train new specialists. Alas, Steptoe died in 1988. But their researches lead to ectopic pregnancy, fertilization and development of an egg which occurs outside the uterus.