Embryology History - Robert Edwards

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Robert Edwards (1925-2013)
ART in Australia and New Zealand 2009

The first successful human IVF was carried out in the UK in 1978 by Robert G Edwards and Patrick Steptoe.[1] Robert Edwards recently was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Patrick Steptoe died in 1988 and Nobel Prizes are generally not awarded posthumously. On the 10 April 2013, Sir Robert Edwards died aged 87. BBC News

The Latin, In vitro = "in glass" meaning in essence a test tube as apposed to in vivo (in life or a living body). Note that even in vivo fertilization can also now be assisted through some fertility drug treatments. Both processes have the same biological outcome, fusion of male and female gametes to form a diploid zygote.

The now many different reproductive options are know as Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and this technique continues to grow worldwide with development of new medical technologies. In vitro fertilization covers the aided fertilization process, in contrast with in vivo fertilization which is the normal uterine occuring fertilization process.

In Australia, the first successful IVF occurred in 1980.[2] by 2005 1,596 babies and in 2009 13,114 liveborn babies in Australian and New Zealand. (ART report 2011)

Historic Embryology
Robert Edwards

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2010 - Awarded to Robert G. Edwards (1925-2013) "for the development of in vitro fertilization" who battled societal and establishment resistance to his development of the in vitro fertilization procedure, which has so far led to the birth of around 4 million people. (More? Assisted Reproductive Technology | Nobel Prize 2010) 10 April 2013 - Sir Robert Edwards has died aged 87. BBC News

ART Links: Assisted Reproductive Technology | In Vitro Fertilization | Oncofertility | In Vitro Oogenesis | NIPT | oocyte | spermatozoa | fertilization | Lecture - Fertilization | Lecture - Week 1 and 2 | Lecture - Genital Development | Robert Edwards | IVF Questions | ART Report 2013 | ART USA | ART Glossary | Category:ART

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2010

Louise Brown, the first IVF baby as an adult.

Awarded to Robert G. Edwards "for the development of in vitro fertilization" who battled societal and establishment resistance to his development of the in vitro fertilization procedure, which has so far led to the birth of around 4 million people.

Links: 2010 Nobel Prize

Key Papers

Establishing full-term human pregnancies using cleaving embryos grown in vitro.[1] "The establishment of human pregnancies by the use of fertilization in vitro and placing cleaving embryos into the uterus is described. Preovulatory oocytes were aspirated at laparoscopy from the ovaries of patients soon after the beginning of the mid-cycle surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) during the natural cycle. The LH surge was identified by assaying 3-hourly samples of urine, and measurements of oestrogens in 24-hour samples were used to assess follicular growth. The surge of LH was identified in 68 patients and it showed a diurnal rhythm. Preovulatory oocytes were aspirated from most of the patients. Fertilization and cleavage occurred in 34 instances, and 32 embryos were put into the mother via the cervical canal. Four patients became pregnant. There were indications that a diurnal rhythm played a role in establishing cleaving embryos, each of the four pregnancies occurring when the embryos were placed in late evening. Each of the pregnancies resulted from oocytes which were aspirated from their follicles 24 hours or longer after the LH surge began. Details are given of three abortive pregnancies in patients given gonadotrophins to stimulate the maturation of of oocytes used for fertilization in vitro."

Test-tube babies, 1981[3] "Between fifteen and twenty babies will be born this year after the in vitro fertilization of human eggs. Many of the essential steps now have high rates of success, including the recovery of preovulatory oocytes, and fertilization and embryo cleavage in vitro. Implantation of the embryo following its replacement in the mother remains the major difficulty. Some implications of the work are discussed."

Historic Embryologists

Embryologists: William Hunter | Wilhelm Roux | Caspar Wolff | Wilhelm His | Oscar Hertwig | Julius Kollmann | Hans Spemann | Francis Balfour | Charles Minot | Ambrosius Hubrecht | Charles Bardeen | Franz Keibel | Franklin Mall | Florence Sabin | George Streeter | George Corner | James Hill | Jan Florian | Thomas Bryce | Thomas Morgan | Ernest Frazer | Francisco Orts-Llorca | José Doménech Mateu | Frederic Lewis | Arthur Meyer | Robert Meyer | Erich Blechschmidt | Klaus Hinrichsen | Hideo Nishimura | Arthur Hertig | John Rock | Viktor Hamburger | Mary Lyon | Nicole Le Douarin | Robert Winston | Fabiola Müller | Ronan O'Rahilly | Robert Edwards | John Gurdon | Shinya Yamanaka | Embryology History | Category:People
Related Histology Researchers  
Santiago Ramón y Cajal | Camillo Golgi

Bourn Hall Clinic

"Two years after achieving the first birth through IVF in 1978, with the longed for arrival of Louise Brown, Mr Patrick Steptoe and Professor Robert Edwards achieved another first – a new clinic that made IVF treatment available to couples with difficulties conceiving. The result has been many children who otherwise would never have been born - and the birth of a whole new area of medicine undertaken here at Bourn Hall Clinic over the last three decades."

(text Bourn Hall history)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Edwards RG, Steptoe PC & Purdy JM. (1980). Establishing full-term human pregnancies using cleaving embryos grown in vitro. Br J Obstet Gynaecol , 87, 737-56. PMID: 6775685
  2. Lopata A, Johnston IW, Hoult IJ & Speirs AI. (1980). Pregnancy following intrauterine implantation of an embryo obtained by in vitro fertilization of a preovulatory egg. Fertil. Steril. , 33, 117-20. PMID: 7353686
  3. Edwards RG. (1981). Test-tube babies, 1981. Nature , 293, 253-6. PMID: 7278985

See also - References


Edwards RG. (2008). From embryonic stem cells to blastema and MRL mice. Reprod. Biomed. Online , 16, 425-61. PMID: 18339268

Edwards RG & Beard HK. (1998). How identical would cloned children be? An understanding essential to the ethical debate. Hum. Reprod. Update , 4, 791-811. PMID: 10098471

Edwards RG & Beard HK. (1997). Oocyte polarity and cell determination in early mammalian embryos. Mol. Hum. Reprod. , 3, 863-905. PMID: 9395264

Edwards RG. (1997). Recent scientific and medical advances in assisted human conception. Int. J. Dev. Biol. , 41, 255-62. PMID: 9184332

Edwards RG & Handyside AH. (1990). Future developments in IVF. Br. Med. Bull. , 46, 823-41. PMID: 2207610

Edwards RG. (1987). In vitro fertilization: past and future. Ann. Biol. Clin. (Paris) , 45, 321-9. PMID: 3310753

Edwards RG. (1985). Current status of human conception in vitro. Proc. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci. , 223, 417-48. PMID: 2858857

Edwards RG. (1974). Fertilization of human eggs in vitro: morals, ethics and the law. Q Rev Biol , 49, 3-26. PMID: 4598817

Edwards RG. (1974). Follicular fluid. J. Reprod. Fertil. , 37, 189-219. PMID: 4274030


Edwards RG. (1969). Immunological aspects of infertility. Proc. R. Soc. Med. , 62, 25-6. PMID: 4178888

Edwards RG. (1965). Maturation in vitro of human ovarian oöcytes. Lancet , 2, 926-9. PMID: 4165802

Edwards RG. (1965). Maturation in vitro of mouse, sheep, cow, pig, rhesus monkey and human ovarian oocytes. Nature , 208, 349-51. PMID: 4957259

FOWLER RE & EDWARDS RG. (1957). Induction of superovulation and pregnancy in mature mice by gonadotrophins. J. Endocrinol. , 15, 374-84. PMID: 13475597

EDWARDS RG. (1955). Selective fertilization following the use of sperm mixtures in the mouse. Nature , 175, 215-6. PMID: 13235857

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, April 23) Embryology Embryology History - Robert Edwards. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Embryology_History_-_Robert_Edwards

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