Tributes to Professor Sir Robert Edwards

Bob Edwards at Bourn Hall with first 'test tube' babies Louise Brown

Bob Edwards with first two 'test tube' babies

Professor Sir Robert Edwards – known affectionately as the ‘father of IVF’ for his pioneering work with Patrick Steptoe – will always be remembered as one of our greatest scientists. His ground-breaking research is still informing the latest developments in a number of areas of medicine.

But Bob also has a living legacy, over 13,000 ‘Bourn Hall Babies’ and 5 million IVF babies worldwide, and the gratitude of their parents for whom he made possible their dreams of having a family.

The world’s first male IVF baby is Alastair MacDonald, born just a few weeks after Louise Brown, and a lifelong friend. He gives his own tribute to his ‘Uncle Bob’ below.

If you would like to add some words of your own, perhaps a personal memory of Prof. Robert Edwards or a message to his family, then please do so using the tribute book at the bottom of this page.

The family would prefer not to receive flowers but mention that there is a Edwards-Steptoe Research Fund for those who wish to make a contribution in this way. It was originally established in 1973 with donations from patients who wished to support research into the development of IVF techniques.

Alastair shares his thoughts…

Alastair and Bob at Bourn Hall Founders Day 2008

This day I knew would always come, the dread of which, I simply could not prepare for. I am struggling to find the appropriate words, but here goes:

The world has lost a truly great and wonderful man today. In my opinion, the greatest scientist this world has ever seen. No other person in history can claim to have led the way to creating the lives of over 5 million people. 5 million people that simply would not be alive today, had it not been for this genius of a man.

Bob would not ever admit to being a genius, nor would he want or desire to have praise for his work in return. He was a man, who, with the greatest self-determination to succeed, made the impossible possible, while making use of what little resources were available while proving his many doubters wrong. What did Bob wish for? Simply to make the world a better place, and he has certainly done that, bringing so much joy to childless couples all around the world. It is with the greatest respect I can say I was truly honoured and blessed to know him.

Bob was the most selfless, honourable, kind and decent person you could ever wish to meet. Despite his hectic work calendar, taking him all over the world well into his 80s, he always remained a proud and loyal father and grandfather. His dedication to his work and family was like no other.

I am extremely privileged to have grown up knowing Sir Robert Edwards as a close family friend. Not just a man who made my life possible, he was always there for me throughout my life and has remained a true inspiration and mentor to me. Bob was and always will remain my hero. A word I know that is so commonly used nowadays, but no one other person can claim to have done so much, for so many, as him.

RIP Uncle Bob. You will be terribly missed but your legacy to the world will live on. Thank you for what you have given me. I owe you so much. You will never be forgotten.


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(15) Ellie Stoneley
Tue, 21 May 2013 12:35

Put simply, without Professor Edwards and Dr Steptoe, I would not have Hope ...

I do ...
... and saying thank you will never be enough to span the joy, the love, the absolute and utter bliss of being blessed with the opportunity to try to have a small person let alone the miracle of her birth.

The fact that worldwide there are now millions of babies, millions of people alive who wouldn't have been, they are already a population and now they are parents and grandparents, your legacy is growing.

For me personally, your visionary pioneering brilliance has transformed my world and that of my family ... you gave us hope when we really had none and now we have Hope and she is setting out on her own journey one that you made possible.

I hope that the knowledge of what you has given the world is some small comfort to your family ... Rest In Peace because you will be surrounded in due course by the hundreds, thousands and millions of people that you enabled ... and they will I'm sure all want to thank you in person on that cloud up there at some point... it's going to be the busiest cloud in heaven : )

Thank you.

(14) Nick and Wendy
Tue, 23 April 2013 21:38

Without Professor Edwards and Dr. Steptoe, we would not have been blessed with our wonderful twins. Oliver and Melissa were born in 1991 after treatment at Bourne Hall. We cannot imagine what life would have been without them, so thank the Lord from the bottom of all our hearts for the lives of these two gifted men.

(13) Rhia Virdee
Mon, 22 April 2013 08:47

To Professor Sir Robert Edwards family –

My name is Rhia and I am pictured at the top, right hand corner with my parents. Through your pioneering research work and dedication, I was born in 2011. Thank you for making my parents dream come true. When I am a little bit older and able to read, I will sit down with my mummy and daddy to read the many tributes. It will help me understand why my parents and so many others are so grateful to you.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to be a good girl, a cheeky girl and a naughty girl.

Lots of love from Rhia, aged 20 months.

(12) Kelly Bryenton
Fri, 19 April 2013 11:26

What an amazing absolute legacy he has left behind.....i am sure the family he has left behind are so proud of him for what he pioneered. After 4 cycles of ivf at Bourn Hall me and my husband finally achieved our dream in June 2011 when our daughter Grace arrived. She has truely changed our lives and for that we are eternally grateful to Sir Bob Edwards xxxxxx

(11) Les Gunbie and Jane Abbott
Thu, 18 April 2013 19:14

We hadn't heard of Robert Edwards before last week, and so didn't realise what a debt we owe to him and his colleagues. What a truly remarkable thing that he pioneered - and for our twins - Laura and Joe - we will always be truly grateful.
Les & Jane

(10) Sue Rodger
Thu, 18 April 2013 02:46

He, and his fellow researchers, helped make our family's dreams come true. Thank you. X

(9) Jane Cheney
Wed, 17 April 2013 09:12

My son Sam and I were so sad to hear of Bob Edwards death last week. We have so much to thank him for.

What a wonderful legacy to leave us Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe – the gift and joy of life to now millions of people – young and old and spread all around the world. Thank you a million times, both of you for your skill, dedication and passion.

My son Sam was born as a result of IVF/frozen embryo replacement at Bourn Hall in 1987 after several treatment cycles. The individual care, tireless work and compassion of the whole team at the Clinic led by Steptoe and Edwards was always evident and so reassuring.

The Clinic has continued to celebrate life and my memories of Bob in later years smiling amongst all his ‘babies’ and grateful parents has been captured in photographs and beamed around the world. The last time Sam and I saw Bob was at the celebration of Louise’s 30th birthday when Sam was chosen to represent ‘1987 baby’. Bob looked so proud, as we all were of him and what a climax to his life’s work.

Sadly my husband David, Sam’s Father, died in 2010 and having been through all the experience with us, would have endorsed my tribute to Bob and of course Patrick Steptoe very strongly. We made many friends during our treatments at the Clinic, both patients and staff and this period in our lives became very special to us and of course Sam and I will never ever forget and always be grateful to such a wonderful man, Bob Edwards.

Our thoughts are with his family and close friends and colleagues at this time.

Jane Cheney (now Jane Stanley)

(8) Ann Macfarlane
Wed, 17 April 2013 02:22

PROFESSOR Robert Edwards came to the world on a mission blessed by God, to give a great blessing to many parents when they received the gift of their precious sons and daughters through IVF.

A gift that removed the terrible pain of infertility.
A gift that gave life to millions of lucky people.

My son Ross born in October 1988 is one of the Bourne Hall Clinic Children who owes his life to the works of Professor Edwards and Dr Patrick Steptoe..

My husband and l, met Professor Edwards but at the time we were at Bourne, Dr Steptoe was unwell and died a short time later, during my pregnancy.

At this time and always we will think of these great men!

Our Best Wishes to Professor Edwards Family from Graham, Ann, and Ross Macfarlane.

(7) Jean Gossip
Wed, 17 April 2013 01:30

Chris and I will forever be grateful to those two wonderful men, Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe. Thanks to them we have our wonderful daughter, Olivia, who was born in 1983, almost 30 years ago. When we heard of Sir Robert's death, last Thursday, all 3 of us felt we had lost someone who was almost part of the family. May he rest in peace, after a life well led and a job well done.

(6) Andrea Carter
Tue, 16 April 2013 16:38

I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Professor Edwards. I had the pleasure of working at Bourn Hall Clinic from 1988 to 1991 and was surprised at how approachable he was, he always had time to chat, always ready to make a joke or there was just a huge smile and a "Good morning" on passing by. I am in admiration of his work and how much he has changed thousands of peoples lives. I am thinking of his family at this very sad time and want them to know how deeply honoured I am to have crossed his path during my lifetime. RIP Professor Edwards.

(5) Keith & Siobhan Gower
Tue, 16 April 2013 14:00

It was a great sadness to learn of the passing of Professor Sir Robert Edwards. Without his pioneering genius we would be without our two fine sons (now 21 and 15).

We are forever in his debt.

Keith, Siobhan, Tom and Sam

(4) Pamela Keen
Tue, 16 April 2013 12:37

The change he made to my life is immeasurable. He gave me my two beautiful sons and also gave me a life that was worth living. For me nothing is greater than motherhood. I will forever be in his debt and will treasure the gift he bestowed me. Pamela, Tristan and Reuben.

(3) Ukrainian Association for Reproductive Medicine
Tue, 16 April 2013 11:54

We express our deep condolences on the death of Professor Robert Edwards. We grieve with you and remember the professor as an outstanding scientist and a wonderful person.

(2) Lucy Raby
Mon, 15 April 2013 12:14

It was with great sadness that we heard about the death of Robert Edwards. Without him our beautiful daughter Izzy would not be here. She is now 24, a happy, caring, loving, successful person and a superb young adult. She has transformed our lives and made us so happy.

We lost IVF twins 2 years before Izzy's birth in 1986 but it was not the fault of the technology. Rather than putting me off, it gave me the chance in the first place and the courage to carry on trying, because I knew I could do it. I just knew she was floating about out there waiting to be brought down it earth. The technology and the goodwill was there to help me achieve it and I felt very lucky. The 'Bourn Hall Experience' although full of the stresses of treatment, the waiting and hopes and disappointments, was a very spiritual experience for me and it helped me understand the true meaning of life.All the staff were incredibly caring and always made you feel very special and important, and this was filtered down from the philanthropic nature of the two men at the top - Steptoe and Edwards.

Patrick Steptoe used to come and see all of us every morning when he was still alive and you always felt everyone there was taking an interest in you as a person. I was two months pregnant with Izzy when Patrick died and very sad I could not attend his funeral. We met Robert Edwards many times and have gone back to Bourn Hall many times with her for reunions, including the Big Founders day celebrating 30 years of IVF with Louise Brown, in 2008, which Izzy was attending to represent babies born in 1988, and which we felt very privileged to attend. They were all great parties, happy, loving occasions where we met old friends and came away with lovely memories.

He was a wonderful man, eccentric, brilliant, kind, warm, funny, caring, modest and above all very human. Words are not sufficient to describe what he has done for mankind. He was not only a genius scientist, but a great humanitarian pioneer who has done much more for mankind than he is given credit for and infinitely more than a certain person who is getting a neo 'state funeral' this week. He is the one who deserves the pomp and ceremony, but of course he would have hated it because he was so modest and self effacing. All he wanted to do was help people. That is true greatness. His legacy will live on forever. He created life where there was none, and yet he was not playing God, he was doing God's work, because at the end of the day, God decides if a soul is going to enter an embryo. He and Patrick Steptoe are the spiritual grandfathers of all the millions of IVF people who would not have been here on this earth without their philanthropic work. We are extremely proud to have known such a great man and our thoughts are with his family. I hope Patrick and Robert are together now, having a good chat and a chuckle about old times. RIP Robert Edwards.

(1) Becky Saer
Sat, 13 April 2013 11:18

A life dedicated to that most personal and profound medical condition: infertility. It was interersting to hear Rabbi Sachs on BBC Radio 4 talk about the gift of IVF and how the Jewish faith applauds fertility technologies. Not all faith do. I was lucky enough to succeed with my IVF (with donor eggs) and am now about to begin my third trimester. Bob Edwards' death could therefore not be any more poignant to me. A genius, who brought IVF to the world - and happiness to millions..