The biologist, with Dr. Patrick Steptoe, developed techniques for in-vitro fertilization. 'Test tube baby' Louise Brown, born on July 25,1978, was the first of millions of children born through IVF.

In a statement released by Bourn Hall, the Cambridge IVF clinic founded by Edwards and Steptoe, Ruth Edwards said, "The family are thrilled and delighted that Professor Edwards has been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for the development of IVF. The success of this research has touched the lives of millions of people worldwide, and his dedication and single-minded determination despite opposition from many quarters has led to successful application of his pioneering research."

Steptoe was not honored because Nobel rules require that an honoree be alive at the time of the award. Steptoe died in 1988, three years before New York's Lasker Foundation awarded Edwards its top award, which is often viewed as a precursor of the Nobel.

Critics have questioned why it has taken so long to honor the pair's achievements. Some suspect that it is due in part to the Vatican's disapproval of the technique because it physically separates the conjugal act and conception. Many other religious groups also initially expressed concerns about the ethics of IVF, and Britain's Medical Research Council refused to fund the experiments, spurring Edwards and Steptoe to obtain private grants. Most such groups have now reversed their positions, and the Catholic Church remains the only major group opposed to IVF. The Vatican has not released any statement about today's award.

Sources: www.ki.se, http://nobelprize.org