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The Papers of Sir Robert Edwards

Reference Code: GBR/0014/EDWS

Scope and Contents

Personal and scientific papers including correspondence, research and laboratory notebooks, draft publications and journal articles, newspaper clippings, photographs, videos and film.


  • Creation: 1925 - 2014

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is mostly open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Some files are closed for data protection reasons, and these closures are marked in the catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Edwards was born on the 27 September 1925, the son of Samuel and Margaret Edwards. He was educated at Manchester Central High School, the University of Wales, Bangor (1948-51) and the University of Edinburgh (1951-55). In 1956, he married Ruth Eileen Fowler, they had five daughters. Edwards was a research scientist at the University of Edinburgh (1955-1957), the California Institute of Technology (1957-1958), the National Institute of Medical Research, Mill Hill, London (1958-62), Glasgow University (1962-63), and in the Physiology Department at the University of Cambridge (1963-89). He was Professor of Human Reproduction at the University of Cambridge (1985-1989). Edwards was a Fellow of Churchill College Cambridge from 1979, and a Senior Member from 1974. Alongside Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy, Edwards carried out clinical research that led to the success of in vitro fertilisation to treat infertility in 1978. The three established Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge in 1980, where Edwards was Scientific Director until 1991. Edwards edited Research in Reproduction journal (1969-1990) published by the International Planned Parenthood Federation; established the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) with Jean Cohen in 1984 and became the society’s first chairman; and edited ESHRE’s journals - Human Reproduction (1985), Human Reproduction Update (1996), and Molecular Human Reproduction (1996). In 2000 Edwards resigned from ESHRE and established Reproductive BioMedicine Online journal. Robert Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010 for the development of in vitro fertilisation. He was knighted in 2011. Publications include: 'A Matter of Life' (with P. C. Steptoe), 1980; 'Conception in the Human Female' 1980; 'Mechanisms of Sex Differentiation in Animals and Man' (with C. R. Austin), 1981; 'Human Conception in Vitro' (with J. M. Purdy), 1982; 'Implantation of the Human Embryo' (with J. M. Purdy and P. C. Steptoe), 1985; 'In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer' (with M. Seppälä), 1985; 'Life Before Birth' 1989; and 'Modern Assisted Conception' (edited with Francisco Risquez), 2003.


140 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

Copies of this finding aid are available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were deposited in 18 different accessions, mostly by the family of Robert Edwards and by Bourn Hall Clinic.

Related Materials

The papers of Barbara Rankin, secretary to Robert Edwards, are also held at Churchill Archives Centre (reference BARA). Churchill Archives Centre additionally has an Edwards Associated collection (ref EDWS AS), the Papers of Patrick Steptoe (STPT) and Patient Pioneers Oral Histories (PPOH).

Related Materials

The papers of Lesley Brown are available at Bristol Archives. The papers of Anne McLaren are available at the British Library. The Bourn Hall Clinic institutional archive is at the Wellcome Collection.


The Edwards papers were catalogued by Madelin Evans from 2017-2019, with a Wellcome Trust grant; additions from later accessions were added to the collection in 2022 (these additions are note in the individual catalogue entries). Biographical information was taken from Edwards' entry in 'Who's Who, 2008', 'A Matter of Life: The Story of a Medical Breakthrough' by Edwards and Patrick Steptoe (1980), 'Robert Edwards: the path to IVF' by Martin Johnson in Reproductive BioMedicine Online (Aug 2011), and 'ESHRE: the first 21 years' by Simon Brown (2005).


Edwards, Sir Robert Geoffrey, 1925-2013, Knight, Professor of Human Reproduction

2017-02-08 09:27:00.810000+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087