Batley’s Nobel Prize winner Prof Robert Edwards
Oct 6 2010 by Sam Casey, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
THINK Batley and you might think textiles, sweet snacks and variety entertainment.
But now the town that’s home to Fox’s Biscuits, the Frontier Club and the shoddy trade can also claim to have given the world its very own Nobel Prize-winning scientist.
Prof Robert Edwards was awarded the 2010 prize for medicine for his work as the father of in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
He received a 10 million Swedish kronor (£940,000) prize.
His wife, Ruth Edwards, and family said in a statement: “The family are thrilled and delighted that Prof Edwards has been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for the development of IVF.
“The success of this research has touched the lives of millions of people worldwide and his dedication and single minded determination, despite opposition from many quarters, has led to successful application of his pioneering research.”
Mike Macnamee, chief executive of Bourn Hall, near Cambridge, the IVF clinic which Prof Edwards founded, added: “Bob Edwards is one of our greatest scientists. His inspirational work in the early ’60s led to a breakthrough that has enhanced the lives of millions of people worldwide.
“Bob Edwards is held in great affection by everyone that has worked with him and was treated by him. I am really pleased that my great mentor, colleague and friend has been recognised in this way.”
A father-of-five, Prof Edwards left Batley to go into the Army before becoming a mature student at Bangor University in North Wales after demobilisation.
He studied agriculture and zoology, after which he went to Edinburgh to study genetics.
In 1963 he arrived at Cambridge University to take up a senior post in the physiology department.
He had already started working with colleague Patrick Steptoe to develop IVF technology, in which egg cells are fertilised outside the body and implanted in the womb.
Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby, was not born until 1978.
But Prof Edwards, now 82, still remembers the moment he first created a human blastocyst – an embryo that has developed for five to six days after fertilisation – 10 years earlier.
He said: “I’ll never get forget the day I looked down the microscope and saw something funny in the cultures.
“I looked down the microscope and what I saw was a human blastocyst gazing up at me. I thought: We’ve done it.”