Ruth Fowler Edwards (December 1930 – October 2013) was a British geneticist and the long-time wife and companion of Robert G. (Bob) Edwards, the “father” of in vitro fertilization (and 2010 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine “for the development of in vitro fertilization”).
Fowler was the daughter of physicist Sir Ralph Fowler, FRS (1889-1944) and Eileen Mary Rutherford, herself the only daughter of the celebrated physicist Lord Ernest Rutherford, FRS (1871–1937, the 1908 Nobel laureate in Chemistry “for his investigations into the disintegration of elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances”). Having developed an interest in biological sciences, Fowler studied genetics at Edinburgh University in the early 1950s, where she met Bob Edwards in a statistics class; he was to become her husband and scientific colleague for life. The two married in 1956 and had 5 daughters.
Fowler and Edwards worked together on controlled ovulation induction in the mouse. In their first joint paper, published in 1957, they showed that superovulation of adults was indeed possible. Ruth Fowler later worked on the effects of progesterone and oestrogen on pregnancy and embryonic mortality in the mouse; the differences in ovarian output between natural conditions and superovulation; growth and genetics of the early human embryo developing in culture; uterine fluid composition and embryo implantation in the rabbit; steroidogenesis in human granulosa cells and follicular growth; glycoprotein composition and cell-to-cell interactions in the cumulus-oocyte complex. Her scientific career spans over four thrilling decades in the history of genetics and human reproduction; in that sense, she was the most appropriate person to collect Bob Edwards’ Nobel Prize on his behalf.
An obituary was published by Simon Fishel, yet another of many Bob Edwards’ brilliant students, in RBM Online, a journal created by Bob Edwards with the support of Ruth Fowler.
^ Fowler, R.E., Edwards, R.G., 1957. Induction of superovulation and pregnancy in mature mice by gonadotrophins. J. Endocrinol. 15, 374–384.
^ Reproductive BioMedicine Online (2014) 28, 3–4.