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Nobel Prize 2010 For Medicine: Robert G Edwards For In Vitro Fertilization

October 4, 2010

Nobel prize in Medicine or Physiology for 2010 has been awarded to UK researcher, Dr Robert G Edwards, for his pioneering work in development of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The prize was announced today morning; rest of the prizes will be announced during the week. His research, which was full of controversies and oppositions from religious groups as well as scientists over ethical issues, has led to birth of approximately 4 million individuals round the globe who are now adults and some of them have also become parents. Despite all the controversies and funding problems, he and his colleague Dr Patrick Steptoe, continued working and finally first test tube baby was born on 25th July 1978.

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. []

While the world is today recognizing the work of Dr Edwards, I would like to write a few lines about another researcher, Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyaywhose work was not recognized and who met a sad end to his life, thanks to politicians and bureaucrats. World’s second test tube baby, Durga alias Kanupriya Agarwal, was born in India  on Oct 3rd 1978, merely 67 days after Dr Edwards first test tube baby creation, using a different technique whichc Dr Mukhopadhyay developed as compared to Dr Edwards’ group. Instead of receiving any recognition, his work was dubbed dubious and bogus by the then Govt of West Bengal in India and he was barred from attending any international conferences. This apathy and insult ultimately led him to commit suicide on June 19th, 1981 (a bollywood movie ” Ek Doctor ki Maut” was made based on his life story). It was not until 1981 when other countries started reporting successful test tube babies. Some of the works by other researchers later went on to get published in Nature, the work which has been already done by Dr Mukhopadhyay in 1978. India’s first “official” test tube baby was born in 1986 under direction of T C Anand Kumar, but thanks to his efforts, he passed on the duly deserved recognition to Dr. Mukhopadhyay, after he went through his notes in great detail. A sad story, but I am glad his field of work is being recognized today and hopefully in India people recognize his contribution  to the field of medicine. You can read more about him in this blog dedicated to Dr Mukhopadhyay.

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