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Father of 'test tube babies' dies at 87

by Staff Reporter
11 Apr 2013 at 00:06hrs | Views
LONDON - Sir Robert Edwards, the scientist known as the father of IVF for pioneering the development of 'test tube babies' for couples unable to conceive naturally, died on Wednesday aged 87.

The Briton, who won the Nobel medicine prize for his achievement in 2010, started developing in-vitro fertilisation in 1955 - work that culminated in 1978 in the birth of Louise Brown, the first so-called test tube baby.

More than five million babies have been born around the world as a result of the techniques that Edwards, known as 'Bob' to his friends, developed with his late colleague Patrick Steptoe. Edwards, who has five daughters and 11 grandchildren, said he was motivated in his work by a desire to help families. "Nothing is more special than a child," he was quoted by his clinic as saying when he won his Nobel prize.

IVF is a process by which an egg is fertilised by sperm outside the body in a test tube, giving rise to the term 'in vitro' or 'in glass'.

Working at Cambridge University in eastern England, Edwards first managed to fertilise a human egg in a laboratory in 1968. He then started to collaborate with Steptoe.

In 1980, the two founded Bourn Hall, the world's first IVF clinic, in Cambridge, where gynaecologists and cell biologists from around the world have since come to train.

Experts say that today, as many as 1 to 2 per cent of babies in the Western world are conceived through IVF.

Yet Edwards' work and its consequences remain controversial. The Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes IVF as an affront to human dignity that destroys more human life than it creates ' because scientists discard or store unused fertilised embryos. Working together in the 1960s and 1970s, Edwards and Steptoe, a gynaecologist, pursued their research despite opposition from churches, governments and many in the media, as well as scepticism from scientific colleagues.

Source - Online