Robert Edwards, a reproductive biologist, began his work on human reproductive biology in the early 1960s. Seeing the potential for treating infertility, he decided to try to develop a method for fertilising human eggs outside the body and then return them to the woman. He clarified the maturation process of human eggs outside the body and the effects that various hormones have on the process. By 1968 he was achieving the fertilisation of eggs in the laboratory and started a collaboration with gynaecologist surgeon Patrick Steptoe who used laparoscopy to remove eggs from ovaries.
Their first successful human test-tube fertilisation took place in 1970 but Edwards and Steptoe continued to encounter scepticism and resistance until the breakthrough in 1978 which produced the first ever IVF birth. The project and technique raised ethical concerns about the beginnings of life and the natural limitations of humans.
Receiving many honours for his pioneering work, he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2010, by which time over four million children had been born as a result of IVF.