The Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 2010 has been awarded to Robert Edwards for his pioneering work on human In Vitro Fertilisation treatments. The news was leaked a few hours ahead of the official announcement by a Swedish daily – Svenska Dagbladet.
The official citation was shown in a live webcast from Sweden at 9.30 a.m. GMT this morning. But the advance rumour was propagated by Reuters and picked up by other news agencies a few hours ahead of time. The Nobel committee was repeatedly asked about the apparent “leak” at the press conference after the announcement. They first called it a good guess, but then admitted that they had been shocked to see it in the papers this morning.
Robert Geoffrey Edwards who celebrated his 85th Birthday last week first succeeded with IVF treatment for infertile couples in his work with Patrick Steptoe when Louise Brown was born at 11:47 p.m. on 25th July 1978. The technique is to extract an egg from the mother’s ovaries and fertilise it with the father’s sperm in a test-tube before replanting in the mother’s womb. Before Patrick Steptoe died in 1988, Edwards was able to convey to him the news that 1000 “test-tube babies” had been born at Bourn Hall in Cambridge where they had worked together. “I’ll never forget the look of joy in his eyes,” said Edwards.
When news of their early work reached the press, Edwards and Steptoe were heavily criticised. “We were called everything under the sun – immoral, unethical, dehumanising.” Today over 4 million families owe their existence to the fact that the research continued and finally succeeded.