Nobel Prize winner Robert Edwards, a University of Cambridge professor known as the "father of in vitro fertilization," died Wednesday at the age of 87 after battling a long illness, WORLD Magazine reports. Edwards and his late colleague, gynecologist Patrick Steptoe, were the first to enable a woman to give birth using in vitro fertilization (IVF), 35 years ago. Edwards and Steptoe's work aroused indignation in the 1970s. Critics said manipulating the procreative process in a lab was degrading to humans. They pointed out many embryos, created in petri dishes but never transferred to the womb, were simply "washed down the sink" — a scenario that continues today. At the time, Edwards defended himself in The Quarterly Review of Biology, arguing life was transferred gradually from parent to child, rather than created at the moment of conception: "The assumption of full human rights at a single moment … demands making arbitrary decisions that are unjustified biologically," he wrote. Other scientists have since disputed that view and affirmed that human life begins at conception. The denial of life at conception undergirds the justification for abortion today, although abortion proponents rarely try to defend that dubious tenet, instead preferring to talk in terms of "choice."