Birthday Honours: Test-tube baby pioneer knighted

Professor Robert Edwards
Image caption Professor Robert Edwards worked alongside Patrick Steptoe

IVF pioneer and Nobel prize winner Robert Edwards is among several leading health specialists to be knighted in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.

His work led to the birth of Louise Brown, the first "test-tube baby" in July 1978.

The government's "heart tsar" Professor Roger Boyle is also knighted.

The honour is also given to Dr Henry Burns, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer and Professor Kent Woods, who heads the medicines watchdog the MHRA.

Professor Edwards, 85, who was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine last year, began his research into how to help people with fertility problems over 50 years ago.

Other scientists had found that egg cells from rabbits could be successfully fertilised with sperm in test tubes.

His work, alongside the gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe, refined the technique to allow it to be used for humans.

Since Louise Brown's birth, nearly four million babies have been born following IVF treatment.

'Richly deserved'

Professor Edwards' wife Ruth said: "This honour recognises his years of devotion and dedication to alleviate human infertility despite many setbacks and much opposition.

"His success in pioneering IVF has brought happiness to millions of people worldwide.

"Bob is delighted to be receiving this honour, an award that all the family feel is so richly deserved."

By the time Dr Steptoe died in 1988, 1,000 babies had been conceived at the IVF clinic founded by the two men at Bourn Hall, near Cambridge.

Dr Mike Macnamee, the current chief executive of Bourn Hall, said: "We are overjoyed that Bob and his lifetime's work has been acknowledged in this way.

"He is an inspiration to everyone working in the field of medical research and is held in great affection by colleagues and patients alike."

Sir Robert was born in Batley, West Yorkshire, in 1925 and served in the army during the Second World War.

He has said in the past: "The most important thing in life is having a child. Nothing is more special than a child."

'Team award'

Professor Boyle, whose official title is National Clinical Director for Heart Disease and Stroke, has led the development of NHS guidelines for the treatment of people with these conditions in England.

Image caption Professor Boyle has worked as a heart specialist since the 1980s

He said he was "deeply honoured" to have been knighted, and added: "I regard this as recognition for all the hard work that the heart and stroke teams have accomplished not just within the Department of Health but across the NHS."

Also knighted are Dr Hugh Pelham, director of the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and Paul Williams, chief executive of NHS Wales.

They lead a long list of clinicians, researchers and members of associated professions working around the UK who are also honoured.