LONDON (Reuters) - Dr Robert Edwards, a British Nobel prize-winning scientist known as the father of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) for pioneering the development of "test tube babies", died on Wednesday aged 87 after a long illness, his university said.
Dr Edwards, who won the Nobel prize for medicine in 2010, started work on fertilisation in the 1950s, and the first so-called test tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978 as a result of his research.
Since then, millions of babies have been born around the world as a result of the techniques that Dr Edwards developed together with his late colleague, Dr Patrick Steptoe.
Dr Edwards began his work on fertilisation in 1955 and by 1968 had been able to achieve fertilisation of a human egg in a laboratory. He then started to collaborate with Dr Steptoe.
Together they founded Bourn Hall, the world's first IVF clinic, in Cambridge, eastern England, in 1980.
Dr Mike Macnamee, chief executive of the Bourn Hall IVF clinic that Dr Edwards co-founded, said he was "one of our greatest scientists" whose inspirational work led to a breakthrough that has enhanced the lives of millions of people worldwide.
Dr Peter Braude, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at King's College London, said few biologists had been able to have such a positive and practical impact on humankind.
"Bob's boundless energy, his innovative ideas, and his resilience despite the relentless criticism by naysayers, changed the lives of millions of ordinary people who now rejoice in the gift of their own child," he said.
"He leaves the world a much better place."