PerspectiveRetrospective

Robert G. Edwards (1925–2013)

Science  17 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6134, pp. 825
DOI: 10.1126/science.1239644

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Summary

Robert G. Edwards, who with his colleagues Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy enabled the birth of the first "test tube" baby, died on 10 April at his home near Cambridge University in England. He was 87. In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the team's work, ushering in the era of in vitro fertilization (IVF), which allows infertile couples to have their own biological children. The societal impact of this revolution in human reproduction has been enormous. An estimated 5 million babies have been born as the result of assisted reproductive technologies, a number that will doubtless increase as a result of delayed childbearing. Sadly, due to failing health and dementia, Edwards was unable to attend the Nobel award ceremony, and it is unlikely that he even knew of this great recognition. His wife, Ruth Fowler Edwards (they met as graduate students), and former trainee, Martin H. Johnson, addressed the audience on his behalf, a cruel irony given the unbridled passion with which he spoke and wrote about his work on human reproduction.