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Robert Edwards, IVF pioneer who won Nobel, dies at 87

FILE- The British pioneer IVF treatment Professor Robert Edwards sits with two his 'test-tube-babies' Sophie Jack Emery who celebrate their

FILE- The British pioneer of IVF treatment, Professor Robert Edwards sits with two of his 'test-tube-babies', Sophie and Jack Emery who celebrate their second birthday in London in this file photo dated Monday July 20, 1998. The Nobel prize winner for medicine, Edwards who was a pioneer of in-vitro fertilization, which became known as test tube babies, has died aged 87, it is announced Wednesday April 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

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Updated: May 13, 2013 6:13AM

LONDON — Robert Edwards, a Nobel prize winner from Britain whose pioneering in vitro fertilization research led to the first test tube baby and has since brought millions of people into the world, died Wednesday at age 87.

The University of Cambridge, where he was a professor, said Mr. Edwards passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home just outside Cambridge.

Together with Dr. Patrick Steptoe, Mr. Edwards developed in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which resulted in the birth in 1978 of the world’s first test tube baby, Louise Brown. At the time, the two were accused of playing God and interfering with nature.

Since then, the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology estimates that about 5 million babies have been born using the technique, which creates embryos in the laboratory before transferring them into a woman. Experts say about 350,000 babies are born by IVF every year, mostly to people with infertility problems, single people and gay and lesbian couples.

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

“There was such hysteria around the kind of work he was doing,” Braude said, noting that Mr. Edwards stopped his research for two years after he published details on how he had created embryos in the laboratory. “He wanted to work out what the right thing to do was, whether he should continue or whether he was out on a limb.”


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