Edwards' work made it possible to treat infertility, which affects more than 10 percent of all couples worldwide, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet said in a release.
Edwards began his fundamental research in the 1950s. He and gynecologist Patrick Steptoe worked to fertilize human egg cells outside of the womb, culminating in the world's first "test tube baby" born July 25, 1978, the Assembly said. Edwards and his co-workers refined IVF technology and shared it with colleagues.
About 4 million people have been born through in vitro fertilization.
"A new field of medicine has emerged, with Robert Edwards leading the process all the way from the fundamental discoveries to the current, successful IVF therapy," the release said. "His contributions represent a milestone in the development of modern medicine."
In 1980, Edwards and Steptoe established the Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge, England, the world's first center for in vitro fertilization therapy. Steptoe was its medical director until he died in 1988 and Edwards was its head of research until his retirement.
Edwards was born in 1925 in Manchester, England. After serving in World War II, he studied biology at the University of Wales in Bangor and at Edinburgh University in Scotland, where he received his doctorate in 1955. He is professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge.