Last week a true scientific, medical and humanitarian giant lost his long fight with a serious lung disease. Literally a genius whose advancements in fertility science defined the final third of the 20th Century and to whom millions are grateful.
Following a life of scientific rigour, investigation, argument and medical advancement, the pioneer of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization or test tube conception) and Nobel Laureate : Bob Edwards died on the 13th of April 2013 following a long illness. His work with his scientific partner : Patrick Steptoe (who unfortunately died himself before the Nobel award in 2010) was truly ground breaking, creating an entire new branch of medical science : – Assisted Conception and on a humanitarian level has enabled hundreds of thousands of parents to have children and assisted the creation of millions of children, beginning with Louise Brown in 1968.
As a follower of science and medicine generally the loss of a genius like Edwards is keenly felt regardless but there is also an important personal element to this loss for me. Both of my children are not just the result of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation) but in fact in ICSI (Intra-Cyto Plasmic Sperm Injection) a slightly more involved technical variant of the IVF process (and in fact the process shown on virtually every TV news IVF story featuring the film clip showing the injection of the sperm into the egg).
From 1998 to 2005 my wife and I went through numerous cycles of IVF/ICSI to give birth ultimately to our two children in 2000 (Megan, now 13 and in Year 8 at High School) and then Ryan born in 2005 (about to move to Junior School, aged 7). They are both wonderful children and without shadow of a doubt without the cutting edge research and subsequent implementation of the IVF and ICSI treatment protocols that followed the first test tube children in the 1960’s and 70’s they would, put simply, not exist.
This is for me both a sobering and wonderful insight and one that should be put into harsh context against the objections to Edward’s and Steptoe’s work, in particular by the Catholic church that still, bizarrely objects to the on-going practice of IVF.
I would just finish by saying that to me and literally millions of other people, this man and his team were and are, in every hum drum, run of the mill, quiet and unassuming way literally : heroes, and Bob Edwards – a gregarious and oft-times argumentative Yorkshireman deserves both our eternal thanks and remembrance.
My words simply cannot convey the right emotions and sentiment, so I will just finish with a quote from the great man himself that I think sums up the point I am making pretty well :
“the most important thing in life is having a child”
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