On Tuesday, September 27, Sir Robert Edwards, a British scientist and a "father" of artificial fertilisation, would have turned 91. He is named one of the 20 greatest scientists of the 20th century for inventing the "fertilisation in a lab environment" (in vitro fertilisation, IVF) - a method by which male and female gametes can merge and form an embryo outside the human body. It was a crucial turn in infertility treatment, which entailed the development of a number of new fields in biology.
Right after his discovery, Sir Robert Geoffrey Edwards together with his gynaecologist colleague Patrick Christopher Steptoe were basically expelled from the medical and scientific community, as many people couldn't accept this discovery because of moral beliefs. Shortly before his death, R. Edwards fell ill, but managed to get the 2010 Nobel Prize "For the development of the method of fertilisation in a laboratory environment (in vitro fertilisation)". Now R. Edwards is considered one of the greatest scientists of our time. Patrick Steptoe died in 1988 and didn't get a chance for public recognition.
Thanks to the IVF method (in vitro fertilisation outside in a laboratory environment), more than 5 million children were born worldwide starting from 1978 onwards. It has been proven that a child whose parents took advantage of the artificial fertilisation method can conceive children naturally.
"The achievement of Robert Edwards is that he has created a fundamentally new "bypassing" method of infertility treatment, wherein a fertilisation outside the body may be achieved in a laboratory by taking male sperm and female egg, and the resulting embryo could be transferred back into the woman's body. The invention of R. Edward was simply revolutionary for the evolution of mankind, allowing to replace the earlier approaches in infertility treatment with far more effective method of conception outside the body," explains Alexander Krivoharchenko, embryologist of "MAMA RĪGA" Reproductive Health Clinic with 33 years of experience in embryology, author and co-author of about 100 scientific publications and reviewer of international medical and scientific journals.
As we know, the infertility problem has always existed. In ancient times, the lack of offspring could often start a war or terminate the existence of entire dynasties of rulers. The fact that the couple has no children was often considered a woman's fault, thus resulting in stigmatisation and isolation. If the family had no children, the husband could go to court to get a divorce and the woman - without any medical justification - was proclaimed responsible. Scientific studies of the causes of male infertility began only in the last decades, and already much evidence was obtained pointing the critical role of a man in conception. At the moment, dozens of reasons that may cause infertility in couples are known to medicine.
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