NPR : News

Test-Tube Baby Pioneer Dies

The man whose research led to the world's first test-tube baby more than three decades ago, has died at age 87.

Robert Edwards, who later won the Nobel Prize, began experimenting with in vitro fertilization, or IVF, in the late 1960s. His work, controversial at the time, eventually led to the birth of the world's first "test tube baby," Louise Brown, on July 25, 1978.

Since then, IVF has resulted in about 5 million babies worldwide, according to the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology.

In 2010, Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and was knighted the following year.

Brown, now 34, told the BBC that she had "always regarded Robert Edwards as like a grandfather."

The work he pioneered along with surgeon Patrick Steptoe, "has brought happiness and joy to millions of people all over the world by enabling them to have children," Brown said. Steptoe died in 1988.

The Associated Press quoted the University of Cambridge, where Edwards was a professor, as saying he passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home just outside Cambridge.

IVF, which joins a human egg and sperm in the laboratory before transferring the resulting embryo back into the womb, sparked enormous controversy after the birth of Brown was announced to the world. Brown's mother had been unable to conceive naturally due to complications from a blockage in her fallopian tubes.

Dr. Peter Braude, emeritus professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Kings College London, who was at Cambridge when Edwards and Steptoe were developing IVF, called Edwards "an extraordinary scientist."

"There was such hysteria around the kind of work he was doing," Braude told The Associated Press. He said Edwards had halted his research for two years as he sought "to work out what the right thing to do was, whether he should continue or whether he was out on a limb."

"I think people now understand that [Edwards] only had the best motivation," he told the AP. "There are few biologists that have done something so practical and made a huge difference for the entire world."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Glimpse Of Listeners' #NPRpoetry — From The Punny To The Profound

It was a simple idea: Would you, our listeners, tweet us poems for National Poetry Month? Your response contained multitudes — haiku, lyrics, even one 8-year-old's ode to her dad's bald spot.
WAMU 88.5

Eating Insects: The Argument For Adding Bugs To Our Diet

Some say eating insects could save the planet, as we face the potential for global food and protein shortages. It's a common practice in many parts of the world, but what would it take to make bugs more appetizing to the masses here in the U.S.? Does it even make sense to try? A look at the arguments for and against the practice known as entomophagy, and the cultural and environmental issues involved.

WAMU 88.5

A Federal Official Shakes Up Metro's Board

After another smoke incident and ongoing single tracking delays for fixes, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced a shake-up of Metro's board.

NPR

'The Guardian' Launches New Series Examining Online Abuse

A video was released this week where female sports journalists were read abusive online comments to their face. It's an issue that reaches far beyond that group, and The Guardian is taking it on in a series called "The Web We Want." NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with series editor Becky Gardiner and writer Nesrine Malik, who receives a lot of online abuse.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.