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Sir Ian Wilmut
Born 7 July 1944
Hampton Lucy, England
Residence Edinburgh, Scotland
Fields Embryologist
Alma mater University of Nottingham
University of Cambridge
Notable awards 1997 Time man of the year runner up [1]

Sir Ian Wilmut, OBE (born 7 July 1944) is an English embryologist and is currently Director of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He is best known as the leader of the research group that in 1996 first cloned a mammal from an adult somatic cell, a Finnish Dorset lamb named Dolly.[2][3] He was granted an OBE in 1999 for services to embryo development.[4] In December 2007 it was announced that he would be knighted in the 2008 New Year Honours.[5]

Early life and career

Wilmut was born in Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire, England.[6] Wilmut's father, Leonard Wilmut, was a mathematics teacher who suffered from diabetes for fifty years eventually causing blindness.[7] He was a student of the former Boys' High School, in Scarborough, where his father taught.[8] Wilmut's early desire was to embark on a naval career, but he was unable to do so due to his colour blindness.[9] As a school boy, Wilmut worked as a farm hand on weekends, which inspired him to study Agriculture at the University of Nottingham.[8][10]

During the summer of 1966 Wilmut spent 8 weeks working in the laboratory of Christopher Polge, who is credited with developing the technique of cryopreservation in 1949.[11] The following year, Wilmut joined Polge's laboratory to undertake a research PhD, from which he graduated in 1971. Wilmut has since been involved in research focusing on gametes and embryogenesis including working at the Roslin Institute.[8]

Wilmut was the leader of the research group that in 1996 first cloned a mammal, a lamb named Dolly.[2][3] when she died in 2003 he said that it was because of a respiratory disease and not that she was a clone. However, in 2008 Wilmut announced that he is to abandon the technique of nuclear transfer by which Dolly was created in favour of an alternative technique developed by Shinya Yamanaka. This method has been used in mice to derive pluripotent stem cells from differentiated adult skin cells, thus circumventing the need to generate embryonic stem cells. Wilmut believes that this method holds greater potential for the treatment of degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease and to treat stroke and heart attack patients.[12]

"Dolly was a bonus, sometimes when scientists work hard, they also get lucky, and that's what happened."[1]

Ian Wilmut, quoted in Time

Wilmut has been accused of accepting disproportionate credit for his contribution to the development of Dolly. Former employees of the Roslin Institute claim that Wilmut is “self-confessed charlatan” who “apparently lacks adequate scientific understanding”.[13] These employees, who were not directly involved in the creation of Dolly, have signed a petition for the Queen to withdraw Wilmut's knighthood.[14] Indeed, Wilmut admits to having played only a supervisory role in the creation of Dolly, crediting his colleague Keith Campbell with "66 per cent" of the work.[15] This supervisory role however is consistent with the post of principal investigator held by Wilmut at the time of Dolly's creation.

Prof Wilmut currently holds the post of Chair of Reproductive Biology at the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh and in 2008 was knighted in the New Year Honours for "services to science".[9]


  1. ^ a b Nash, Madeleine (29 December 1997). "Dr Ian Wilmut...and Dolly". Time. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  2. ^ a b "The Third Culture: Ian Wilmut". Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  3. ^ a b Giles, Jim; Jonathan Knight (2003-02-20). "Dolly's death leaves researchers woolly on clone ageing issue". Nature. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  4. ^ "Times Higher Education: Queen's Birthday Honours". Times Higher Education. 1999-06-18. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  5. ^ "Dolly creator heads Scots honours". BBC News (BBC). 2007-12-29. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  6. ^ "Biographical Notes". The Shaw Prize. 2008-09-09. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  7. ^ a b c "Autobiography of Sir Ian Wilmut". The Shaw Prize. 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  8. ^ a b "Dolly the sheep creator knighted". BBC. 2007-12-29. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  9. ^ "Ian Wilmut Interview: Pioneer of Cloning". Academy of Achievement. 1998-05-23. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  10. ^ Rall, William (June 2007). "In Memoriam: Ernest John Christopher Polge FRS (1926–2006)". Cryobiology. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  11. ^ Highfield, Roger (2007-11-16). "Dolly creator Prof Ian Wilmut shuns cloning". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  12. ^ Lister, David (2008-02-01). "Honour for creator of Dolly the sheep ‘is insult to science’". The Times (London). Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  13. ^ Connor, Steve (2008-02-01). "'Dolly' scientist should be stripped of his knighthood, colleagues tell Queen". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  14. ^ Cramb, Auslan (2006-03-08). "I didn't clone Dolly the sheep says prof". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dr. Ian Wilmut (born 1944-07-07) is an English embryologist best known as the leader of the group that in 1996 first cloned a mammal, a sheep named Dolly, from fully differentiated adult mammary cells.


Magazine interviews.

  • It is quite likely that it is possible, yes. But what we've said all along -- speaking for both the (Roslin) Institute and the PPL staff - is that we would find it ethically unacceptable to think of doing that. We can't think of a reason to do it. If there was a reason to copy a human being, we would do it, but there isn't.
  • Any kind of manipulation with human embryos should be prohibited.
    • As quoted in "Dr. Frankenstein, I Presume?" by Andrew Ross in Salon (February 1997)

Radio program.

  • I'd remind you that in these experiments so far, about one quarter of the lambs that were born alive died within a few days because they hadn't completed normal development. Now, what may be being suggested here is that copies of children would be being produced, and some of those would die soon after birth. So I think that for a clinician to be suggesting doing that is a quite appalling and sad thing for him to be suggesting.


  • I think the initial reason why I became interested in farming is that I wanted to be outdoors. I've always enjoyed being outdoors. And so, I looked around and when I was at high school, probably 14 or so, my parents through friends arranged for me to be able to go work on farms on the weekend.
  • Is this sort of thing which has been thought about beneficial? So that if you're asking the question, for example, "Is it appropriate to think of making a copy of a person?" You have to ask not only, "What is the benefit to the people who are asking for this to be done?" But also, "What's the impact on the child that's going to be produced?" And that last bit I think often gets missed out.
    • Interview at the Academy of Achievement (23 May 1998)

External links

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