In a series of experiments between 1960 and 1965, Robert Geoffrey Edwards discovered how to make mammalian egg cells, or oocytes, mature outside of a female's body. Edwards, working at several research institutions in the UK during this period, studied in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods. He measured the conditions and timings for in vitro (out of the body) maturation of oocytes from diverse mammals including mice, rats, hamsters, pigs, cows, sheep, and rhesus monkeys, as well as humans. By 1965, he manipulated the maturation of mammalian oocytes in vitro, and discovered that the maturation process took about the same amount of time as maturation in the body, called in vivo. The timing of human oocyte maturation in vivo, extrapolated from Edwards's in vitro study, helped researchers calculate the timing for surgical removal of human eggs for IVF.

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