Their reasoning seemed to be partly cultural - that Edwards battled societal and establishment resistance to his development of the in vitro fertilization procedure, which has so far led to the birth of around 4 million people.
Edwards, now 85 and professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge, began working on IVF in the 1950s and developed the technique with British gynecologist Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988 - posthumous prizes are not allowed. In IVF, egg cells are removed from the mother and fertilized outside her body and then implanted into the womb.
As described in Nobel's will, one part was dedicated to “the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine” and Edwards certainly made a practical difference in the lives of infertile couples regardless of the cultural obstacles he faced.
In 1978, Louise Brown in Britain became the first 'test tube' baby born through IVF and now is somewhat common, despite early ethics concerns about the process. The Vatican is still opposed to IVF because it occurs outside natural laws and it remains controversial today due to some of its more exotic applications, such as the 67-year-old Spanish woman who became a mother using IVF - and then died when the twins she gave birth to were infants.
The Nobel committee said Edwards was in poor health when they tried to reach him and too ill to give interviews but his wife told them he would be delighted with the news.
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