Avrion Mitchison

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Avrion Mitchison
Born (1928-05-05) May 5, 1928 (age 89)
Institutions University College London
Alma mater University of Oxford
Doctoral advisor Peter Medawar
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society (1967)

(Nicholas) Avrion Mitchison FRS (born 5 May 1928) is a British zoologist and immunologist.[1]


Mitchison was born in 1928, the son of the Labour politician Dick Mitchison (Baron Mitchison of Carradale in the County of Argyll, who died 1970) and his wife, the writer Naomi (née Haldane). His uncle was the biologist J.B.S. Haldane and his grandfather the physiologist John Scott Haldane. His elder brothers are the bacteriologist Denis Mitchison and the zoologist Murdoch Mitchison.

He is married to Lorna Margaret Martin, daughter of Maj-Gen John Simson Stuart Martin, CSI. They have five children, Tim, Matthew, Mary, Hannah and Ellen. Two are cell biologists Tim Mitchison and Hannah M. Mitchison.

He was educated at Leighton Park School and secured a Classics scholarship to Balliol College. He received his DPhil at New College, Oxford with Nobelist Sir Peter Medawar. This was followed by a long career as Professor of Zoology at University College London, where his uncle J.B.S. Haldane taught, at the National Institute of Medical Research at Mill Hill and as founding Director of a Rheumatology Institute in Germany. He is currently a Professor Emeritus at University College London.

Mitchison's contributions to immunology include the discovery of both low dose and high dose tolerance for a single antigen,[2] a surprising result in the context of basic clonal selection theory, but which can be understood in the context of immune network theory. He was also a founder member of the British Society for Immunology alongside John H. Humphrey, Bob White, and Robin Coombs.


Mitchison discovered the transference of transplantation immunity by sensitised cells, thereby providing evidence relating transplantation immunity to hypersensitivity reactions of the 'delayed' type. He devised a method for revealing mixtures of cells of different genotypes in vivo and used it to be equal first in demonstrating that the 'radiation recovery factor' is a graft of living cells and not a humoral agent. He carried out the most exact quantitative analysis of tolerance hitherto attempted in a cellular system and proved that persistence of tolerance depends on persistence of antigen.[3]

Awards and honours[edit]

Mitchison was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1967.[3] He is also a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Weizmann Institute and won the Sandoz Prize in Basic Immunology.


  1. ^ MITCHISON, Prof. (Nicholas) Avrion. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ Mitchison, N. A. (1964). "Induction of Immunological Paralysis in Two Zones of Dosage". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing papers of a Biological character. Royal Society (Great Britain). 161: 275–292. PMID 14224412. 
  3. ^ a b "Nicholas Mitchison". London: Royal Society.  One or more of the preceding sentences may incorporate text from the royalsociety.org website where "all text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.""Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 20 February 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-09.