Ian Wilmut

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Sir Ian Wilmut
Born (1944-07-07) 7 July 1944 (age 72)[1]
Hampton Lucy, England
Residence Edinburgh, Scotland
Nationality English
Fields Embryologist
Institutions The Roslin Institute
University of Edinburgh
Alma mater University of Nottingham
University of Cambridge
Thesis The preservation of boar semen (1971)
Doctoral advisor Christopher Polge
Known for Cloning sheep
Notable awards OBE, FRS, FMedSci, FRSE, 1997 Time man of the year runner up [2]

Sir Ian Wilmut, OBE FRS FMedSci FRSE[3] (born 7 July 1944) is a British embryologist and Chair of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine[4] at the University of Edinburgh.[5] 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.[6][7][8][9] He was granted an OBE in 1999 for services to embryo development.[10] In December 2007 it was announced that he would be knighted in the 2008 New Year Honours.[11]

Early life and career[edit]

Wilmut was born in Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire, England.[12] Wilmut's father, Leonard Wilmut, was a mathematics teacher who suffered from diabetes for fifty years eventually causing blindness.[13] He was a student of the former Boys' High School, in Scarborough, where his father taught.[14] Wilmut's early desire was to embark on a naval career, but he was unable to do so due to his colour blindness.[15] As a school boy, Wilmut worked as a farm hand on weekends, which inspired him to study Agriculture at the University of Nottingham.[14][16]

In 1966 Wilmut spent 8 weeks working in the laboratory of Christopher Polge, who is credited with developing the technique of cryopreservation in 1949.[17] The following year, Wilmut joined Polge's laboratory to undertake a research Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge (Darwin College), from which he graduated in 1971.[18] Wilmut has since been involved in research focusing on gametes and embryogenesis including working at the Roslin Institute.[14] In 1998 he received the Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award.

Wilmut was the leader of the research group that in 1996 first cloned a mammal, a lamb named Dolly.[8][9] Dolly died of a respiratory disease in 2003. However, in 2008 Wilmut announced that he is to abandon the technique of somatic cell nuclear transfer[19] 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.[20]

"Dolly was a bonus, sometimes when scientists work hard, they also get lucky, and that's what happened."[2]

Ian Wilmut, quoted in Time

Wilmut led the team that created Dolly but credits his colleague Keith Campbell with "66 per cent" of the invention that made Dolly's birth possible.[21] This supervisory role is consistent with the post of principal investigator held by Wilmut at the time of Dolly's creation.

Wilmut is an Emeritus Professor at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine [22] at the University of Edinburgh and in 2008 was knighted in the New Year Honours for services to science.[15]

In 2006 his book After Dolly: The Uses and Misuses of Human Cloning was published, co-authored with Roger Highfield.


  1. ^ "Ian Wilmut". World of Genetics. Gale. 2006. Gale Document Number: GALE|K2433100254. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  2. ^ a b Nash, Madeleine (29 December 1997). "Dr Ian Wilmut...and Dolly". Time. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  3. ^ "Professor Sir Ian Wilmut FRS FMedSci FRSE | Royal Society". Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine". 
  5. ^ "Redirecting Cell Fate, Group leader: Ian Wilmut FRS, FRSE". Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  6. ^ Campbell, K. H. S.; McWhir, J.; Ritchie, W. A.; Wilmut, I. (1996). "Sheep cloned by nuclear transfer from a cultured cell line". Nature 380 (6569): 64–66. doi:10.1038/380064a0. PMID 8598906. 
  7. ^ Schnieke, A. E.; Kind, A. J.; Ritchie, W. A.; Mycock, K.; Scott, A. R.; Ritchie, M.; Wilmut, I.; Colman, A.; Campbell, K. H. (1997). "Human Factor IX Transgenic Sheep Produced by Transfer of Nuclei from Transfected Fetal Fibroblasts". Science 278 (5346): 2130–2133. doi:10.1126/science.278.5346.2130. PMID 9405350. 
  8. ^ a b "The Third Culture: Ian Wilmut". Edge.org. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  9. ^ a b Giles, J.; Knight, J. (2003). "Dolly's death leaves researchers woolly on clone ageing issue". Nature 421 (6925): 776. doi:10.1038/421776a. 
  10. ^ "Times Higher Education: Queen's Birthday Honours". Times Higher Education. 18 June 1999. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  11. ^ "Dolly creator heads Scots honours". BBC News (BBC). 29 December 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  12. ^ "Biographical Notes". The Shaw Prize. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  13. ^ a b c "Autobiography of Sir Ian Wilmut". The Shaw Prize. 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  14. ^ a b "Dolly the sheep creator knighted". BBC. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2007. 
  15. ^ "Ian Wilmut Interview: Pioneer of Cloning". Academy of Achievement. 23 May 1998. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  16. ^ Rall, W. (2007). "Ernest John Christopher Polge FRS (1926–2006)". Cryobiology 54 (3): 241–242. doi:10.1016/j.cryobiol.2007.04.001. 
  17. ^ Wilmut, Ian (1971). The preservation of boar semen (DPhil thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  18. ^ Wilmut, I.; Beaujean, N.; De Sousa, P. A.; Dinnyes, A.; King, T. J.; Paterson, L. A.; Wells, D. N.; Young, L. E. (2002). "Somatic cell nuclear transfer". Nature 419 (6709): 583–586. doi:10.1038/nature01079. PMID 12374931. 
  19. ^ Highfield, Roger (16 November 2007). "Dolly creator Prof Ian Wilmut shuns cloning". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 2 December 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2007. 
  20. ^ Cramb, Auslan (8 March 2006). "I didn't clone Dolly the sheep says prof". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  21. ^ "MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine".