Professor Sir Robert Edwards 1925-2013
The death of Professor Sir Robert Edwards was a particularly sad event for the London Women's Clinic; our connection with Bob went back many years. For many of us - indeed, for almost everyone working in reproductive medicine - Robert Edwards was an inspirational scientist who laid down the foundations of the fertility treatments we have today.
The story is now well known of how Bob, working with the gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe, pioneered the birth of the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in 1978. The birth of Louise was hailed throughout the world as a breathtaking triumph of human biology, which in time would completely revolutionise the treatment of infertility. In the four years which followed Louise's birth there were only a handful of IVF babies born, so challenging were the "test-tube" baby techniques - yet today, no more than 35 years later, the best estimates are that around 5 million IVF babies have been born.
Since those early years, Bob Edwards proved an inspiration to many young doctors taking their first steps in the science and medicine of reproduction. Indeed, it was while the London Women's Clinic's scientific director Dr Kamal Ahuja was training as a PhD student with Edwards in Cambridge that Louise Brown was born. Edwards would go on to be the most influential and far-sighted figure in the world of IVF, eventually, in 2010, gaining the Nobel prize for medicine. Ahuja trained with Edwards for six years, before leaving Cambridge for London and a career in reproductive medicine. Yet even then, the Edwards connection with the London Women's Clinic was not severed, for Edwards was Scientific Director at the LWC for many years.
All of us here at the LWC were deeply saddened by the death of Bob Edwards. He had not been well for a few years, so the news was not entirely unexpected. However, his death does mark the end of an era in reproductive medicine - and a time for us all to applaud the contribution he made. When he was awarded the Nobel prize in 2010 the Nobel committee saidthat in IVF a new field of medicine had been opened, 'with Robert Edwards leading the process all the way from the fundamental discoveries to the current, successful IVF therapy'. He made parenthood possible for countless couples around the world and, as the Nobel Assembly said, his vision became a reality which "brings joy to infertile people all over the world". And for that we salute him and his remarkable life.