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Biographical entry Wood, Edwin Carlyle (1929 - 2011)

AC 1997; CBE 1985; MB BS Melbourne 1952; FRCS 1957; MRCOG 1958; FRACOG 1965.

28 May 1929
Melbourne, Australia
23 September 2011


Edwin Carlyle Wood, known as 'Carl', was a pioneering gynaecologist who, in 1973 in Melbourne, achieved the world's first test tube pregnancy. He was born in Melbourne on 28 May 1929, the son of a gynaecologist, Carlyle Sandford Wood, and Nellie Clayton Wood née Miller. He attended Wesley College and then went on to study medicine at Melbourne University. He qualified in 1952.

After junior posts at the Alfred and Royal Women's hospitals in Melbourne, he went to the UK for training in general surgery, urology and plastic surgery. He was also a research associate at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. In 1959, he became a lecturer (and, from 1960, a senior lecturer) at Queen Charlotte's and the Chelsea Hospital for Women and at the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, London University.

In 1965, he returned to Melbourne, where he was appointed as the foundation professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Monash University's Queen Victoria Medical Centre.

Wood led the team at Monash which pioneered the development of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques. In 1973, the team achieved the world's first IVF pregnancy (though the woman miscarried), as well as the first IVF baby developed from a frozen embryo (in 1983), the world's first child conceived using a donor egg (also in 1983), the first IVF baby using sperm retrieval surgery (in 1986) and the first birth using microinjection intrafallopian transfer IVF (in 1992). However, their most important innovation was the introduction of drugs and hormones to stimulate ovaries, allowing greater control of egg maturation and collection. He also developed laparoscopic techniques for gynaecological surgery.

Wood wrote 23 books, 59 chapters and 400 papers in refereed journals. In 1988, he was given the Axel Munthe award for reproductive science. In 1985, he was appointed as a CBE and in 1995 he became a Companion of the Order of Australia for his services to women's health.

A Carl Wood endowment has been established at Monash University's department of obstetrics and gynaecology, as well as a Carl Wood chair in the same department.

Carl Wood died on 23 September 2011 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He was 82. In 1957 he married Judith, a nurse. They divorced in 1987 and he married Marie, though his second marriage also ended in divorce. When he was diagnosed with dementia he moved back to live with Judith. She survived him, together with their two sons, a daughter and a grandchild.

Sarah Gillam

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Sydney Morning Herald 27 September 2011 - accessed 26 April 2018; The Australian 27 September 2011 - accessed 26 April 2018; The Guardian 16 October 2011 - accessed 26 April 2018; The Telegraph 30 November 2011 - accessed 25 April 2018].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England