The pioneer of IVF (In vitro fertilisation) has passed away at the age of of 87. Professor Sir Robert Edwards passed away in his sleep having suffered from a long term illness.
“Born in Yorkshire in 1925 into a working-class family, Prof Edwards served in the British army during World War II before returning home to study first agricultural sciences and then animal genetics.
Building on earlier research, which showed that egg cells from rabbits could be fertilised in test tubes when sperm was added, Edwards developed the same technique for humans.
In a laboratory at Cambridge in 1968, he first saw life created outside the womb in the form of a human blastocyst, an embryo that has developed for five to six days after fertilisation.
“I’ll never forget the day I looked down the microscope and saw something funny in the cultures,” Edwards once recalled.”
“I looked down the microscope and what I saw was a human blastocyst gazing up at me. I thought, ‘We’ve done it’.”
In 2010 he was award the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for the development of in vitro fertilization” but he was too unwell to receive it so his wife Ruth received the award on his behalf.
Louise Brown, the first child born as a result of IVF paid tribute to him saying:
“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 that 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.”
Of course IVF is controversial amongst certain people and organisations, namely the Catholic church which opposes it because it believes it takes away the joys of creating life through conjugal intercourse. It also opposes it because additional embryos that are created to increase the chances of success are then destroyed, which is a violation of Catholic doctrine regarding the sanctity of embryonic life.Of course that is nonsense but it has not prevented the Vatican from opposing it, calling those who use it “immoral sinners” and referring to IVF itself as “arrogant.”
That is much less important when compared with the importance of recognising a great scientific and medical mind whose work ensured that millions of people around the world are now more likely to have children rather than facing a potentially childless future. Farewell Sir Robert Edwards, rest in peace.