You may have heard the news that British biologist Robert Edwards won the Nobel prize in Medicine for his work developing in-vitro fertilization. Gynecologist Patrick Steptoe pioneered advances in retrieving and replacing a woman’s eggs without open surgery, and Edwards made breakthrough discoveries in keeping sperm and eggs alive outside of the body. Together, their work resulted in the first “test tube” baby born in 1978. She’s now a healthy adult with children of her own.
I clearly remember the breaking news of that first IVF baby. I was headed to college, and it read like science fiction. All sorts of horrors were imagined and published, alongside articles expressing the thrill of bringing children to childless couples. More than four million IVF babies have been born since that remarkable first, four million people who otherwise wouldn’t be here with us today.
Patrick Steptoe couldn’t share the Nobel prize with Robert Edwards, although he most certainly would have if he could. He died in 1988, ten years after his great success, and the prize isn’t awarded posthumously. Congratulations, Drs. Edwards and Steptoe. You not only brought us great science, you brought children into our homes.