Sir Robert Edwards, the Nobel Prize-winning British “test tube baby” pioneer who died last week at age 87, devoted his career to developing in vitro fertilization as a technique to enable women afflicted with certain forms of infertility to conceive and bear children. …

Edwards himself was in no doubt about the biological status of even the earliest embryo as a human being. In the book “A Matter of Life,” Edwards and his collaborator, Patrick Steptoe, describe the embryo as “a microscopic human being—one in its very earliest stages of development.” …

What Edwards rejected was the sanctity-of-life ethic and the principle of the equality of human beings irrespective of stage of development or condition of dependency. Like the philosopher Peter Singer, Edwards distinguished those individuals—admittedly human—who in his view did not yet qualify for protection against manipulation and death-dealing practices like abortion and embryo-experimentation from those who were far enough along the developmental path to qualify. …

Edwards himself saw these developments as morally unproblematic. Among his most controversial stands were his support for human cloning even to produce babies, and for the sex selection of babies not only for health-related but even for social reasons. Edwards stated that his work was “about more than infertility.” It was about “who was in charge, whether it was God Himself or whether it was scientists in the laboratory.” Edwards supposed his IVF technology provided the answer: “It was us.”