The Good Wizard Wins Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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Robert Edwards IVF -- the good wizard

Some years back my wife and I attended a conference by the Genetics and IVF Institute where we spent a thoroughly delightful evening talking with in vitro fertilization (IVF) pioneer Robert Edwards over dinner. When I introduced Pamela to Edwards, she quipped, "I hear that you're the wizard." Smiling Edwards replied, "Well, I hope that I am a good wizard." And yes, Edwards is indeed a good wizard.

It's long past time for Edwards to receive the Nobel Prize for the work he and his colleague Patrick Steptoe did in the 1960s and 1970s that led to the in vitro fertilization revolution. Sadly Steptoe died in 1988. Initially, their work was fiercely opposed by a cadre of bioluddites including former Bush bioethics advisor Leon Kass. In 1969, a Harris poll found that a majority of Americans believed that producing test-tube babies was "against God's will." In 1970s, the federal government imposed a moratorium on federal funding of in vitro fertilization research and legislation that would have outlawed IVF was considered by Congress. Lack of federal funding was a blessing since it meant that the field could develop unfettered by excessive federal regulation.

Louise Joy Brown -- first test tube baby

In 1978, the work of the two researchers resulted in the birth of the world's first "test-tube" baby, Louise Joy Brown. Shortly after Brown's birth, the Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans now appoved of IVF. Scientific success breeds its own support. Since that time about 4 million children have been born to infertile couples around the world. 

The Nobel Committee's press release summarizes Edwards' achievement this way:

Robert Edwards is awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for the development of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) therapy. His achievements have made it possible to treat infertility, a medical condition afflicting a large proportion of humanity including more than 10% of all couples worldwide.

As early as the 1950s, Edwards had the vision that IVF could be useful as a treatment for infertility. He worked systematically to realize his goal, discovered important principles for human fertilization, and succeeded in accomplishing fertilization of human egg cells in test tubes (or more precisely, cell culture dishes). His efforts were finally crowned by success on 25 July, 1978, when the world's first "test tube baby" was born. During the following years, Edwards and his co-workers refined IVF technology and shared it with colleagues around the world.

Approximately four million individuals have so far been born following IVF. Many of them are now adult and some have already become parents. A new field of medicine has emerged, with Robert Edwards leading the process all the way from the fundamental discoveries to the current, successful IVF therapy. His contributions represent a milestone in the development of modern medicine.

Hearty congratulations to Edwards for this well-deserved recognition!

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  1. “It’s the last great adventure left to mankind”
    – Screams a drooping lady
    offering her dreamdolls at less than extortionate prices,
    and as the notes and coins are taken out
    I’m taken in, to the factory floor.

    for the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
    – All ready to use
    the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
    – I just need a fuse.

    Got people stocked in every shade,
    Must be doing well with trade.
    Stamped, addressed, in odd fatality.
    That evens out their personality.
    With profit potential marked by a sign,
    I can recognise some of the production line,
    No bite at all in labour bondage,
    Just wrinkled wrappers or human bandage.

    Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
    – All ready to use
    it’s the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
    – I just need a fuse.

    The hall runs like clockwork
    Their hands mark out the time;
    Empty in their fullness
    Like a frozen pantomime.
    Everyone’s a sales representative
    Wearing slogans in their shrine.
    Dishing out failsafe superlative,
    Brother John is No. 9.

    it’s the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
    – All ready to use
    it’s the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
    – I just need a fuse.

    The decor on the ceiling
    has planned out their future day
    I see no sign of free will,
    so I guess I have to pay,
    pay my way,
    for the Grand Parade…
    it’s the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
    – All ready to use
    it’s the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
    – I just need a fuse.

  2. Dr. Edwards made a breakthrough in medicine and he deserves the award.

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  3. “Lack of federal funding was a blessing since it meant that the field could develop unfettered by excessive federal regulation.”

    All research needs to be privatly funded, in order to keep team red’s or team blue’s motivations out of science.

  4. I don’t believe it: Somebody won a Nobel for actually DOING something…

    1. I thought for sure that Obama was gonna get the Nobel Prize in Medicine for Obamacare. Let those old fogies whose research has allowed us to live longer and healthier lives wait; the real heroes are our rulers who fiddle with the healthcare system.

    2. Not unusual for thep hysiology/medicine, chemistry and phyisics Nobel prizes.

    3. Krugman gets a Nobel prize in economics for bullshitting, and Obama gets one in Peace for being a warmonger. It’s like living in 1984

  5. “Bioluddites.” Yep, nothing like a little perjorative to keep everything classy at Reason. If they oppose you at any point, it’s never the result of principle. Irrationality can be the only cause.

    “Since that time about 4 million children have been born to infertile couples around the world.” And how many more were killed because they didn’t implant properly, were discarded, or were “selected for termination” when more than the desired number DID implant properly?

    1. And how many more were killed because they didn’t implant properly, were discarded, or were “selected for termination” when more than the desired number DID implant properly?

      Far less than the number your God aborts though miscarriages in a single year.

      1. Everyone dies, or as The Onion put it, “World Death Rate Holding Steady At 100 Percent.”

        And because everyone dies eventually, I therefore have the right to kill anyone I wish.

    2. If the egg failing to implant counts as killing a baby, then your god sure fucking loves the taste of dead baby souls.

  6. I guess the people at 10:10 didn’t push their button on him in time. 4 million people? Well, those people contribute to global warming, oops I meant climate change, so much that an extra 300,000 people die every year.

    Wait, wut?

  7. Seriously, though, IVF has brought so much joy to families worldwide, I am willing to forgive the good wizard for inadvertently unleashing Octomom on us.

    1. Do you understand how many medical advances could also be characterized as bringing so much joy to families?

      1. Certainly, but this advance actually allows people to create families that otherwise would not exist.

        I just think Octomom, Jon and Kate and the other reality assclowns that have profited from it diminish the amount of good it has done.

  8. I don’t believe it: Somebody won a Nobel for actually DOING something…

    Nassim Taleb had some amusing things to say about the Nobel Prize (I know, I know) for Economics, recently.

  9. In 1969, a Harris poll found that a majority of Americans believed that producing test-tube babies was “against God’s will.”

    soon enough, we will be able to grow ancephalic bodies. the brain is where love, compassion, kindness, fear and pain reside – no brain, no human, no problem.
    Of course, there will be the hand wringing about playing God. But every and any medical intervention is playing God. Indeed, driving a car is going against God, as you naturally can’t run faster than 15 or so mph. Indeed, riding a bicycle is against nature, as they don’t grow anywhere, and only exist due to man’s intellect and industry.
    But after a few children or old timers (especially old timers – they vote!!!) get new kidneys or hearts, expect it to be very, very quickly accepted.

  10. Inventing IVF is definitely worth the Nobel Prize.

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