Robert Geoffrey Edwards was born in Leeds, England, in 1925. He graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Zoology and Botany from the University of Wales in Bangor and a Ph.D. from the Institute of Animal Genetics at the University of Edinburgh. He joined the University of Cambridge since 1963. He served as a visiting scientist at Johns Hopkins University in 1965, at the University of North Carolina in 1966, and at the Free University in Brussels in 1984. In 1985, he became Professor of Reproductive Physiology at Cambridge University. Upon his retirement in 1989, he became Distinguished Professor at Cambridge. He is also an Extraordinary Fellow of Churchill College at that university.
Professor Edwards is the scientist who developed in vitro fertilization (IVF), a technology that has revolutionized the treatment of infertility. He carried out pioneering research on human in vitro fertilization in collaboration with the late Patrick Steptoe. This culminated in the first successful birth of a “test tube” baby, Louise Brown, on 11 July 1978. This milestone event in the fight against infertility captured the imagination of the public throughout the world, and focused attention on the importance of basic research in human reproduction. Edwards’ studies permitted hundreds of other infertility centers around the world to establish IVF clinics. Refinements in technology increased pregnancy rates and it is estimated that about 4 million babies have so far been born by IVF. Edwards’ seminal research also laid the groundwork for further innovations in the treatment of infertility, such as intracytoplasmatic sperm injection, embryo biopsy and stem cell research.
Professor Edwards authored and co-authored hundreds of research papers and scientific reviews, in addition to 22 books, many of which were reprinted several times. His groundbreaking accomplishments in the field of human reproduction earned him worldwide recognition. He was awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine in 1989, and most recently the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for the development of in vitro fertilization.” In addition, Edwards received 15 other prestigious prizes, including the renowned Lasker Medical Research Award, as well as nine medals. He was also awarded Honorary Doctorate degrees by nine major universities. In 2007, he was ranked 26th among the Daily Telegraph’s list of 100 world geniuses. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society (London) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Honorary President of the French Society for Reproduction and Life Member of the European Society for Embryology and Reproduction. He was appointed Captain of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen of Britain and Honorary Citizen of Bordeaux in France and San Diego in the USA. He is the founder, editor-in-chief or member of the editorial board of several scientific journals. His scholarship is further attested by an impressive list of honorary lectureships and visiting professorships. He died in 2013.
Professor of Human Reproduction in the University of Cambridge where he is also the joint founder and Scientific Director of the Bourn Hall Clinic and a Professorial fellow of Churchill College. With a background of training in endocrinology, immunology and developmental genetics, he initiated studies in 1954 on reproductive physiology in mice. In 1957 he showed that exogenous gonadotropins could induce superovulation. With the ultimate aim of finding how to fertilise human ova outside the body, he turned his attention to the study of isolated human oocytes. Unfortunately, however, he found that they behave differently from those of rodents so that he was obliged to turn to the oocytes that mature inside the human ovary shortly before they are released at ovulation. The necessity for him at this point to seek clinical help led, in the early 1960′s, to a remarkably fruitful collaboration.