Peter Lachmann

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Sir Peter Lachmann
Born (1931-12-23) 23 December 1931 (age 85)
Institutions University of Cambridge
Thesis The immunological properties of cell nuclei, with special reference to the serological aspects and patho-genesis of systemic Lupus Erythematosus (1962)
Doctoral advisor Robin Coombs and Henry Kunkel
Doctoral students Mark Walport
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society
Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences

Sir Peter Julius Lachmann, ScD, FRS, FMedSci (born 23 December 1931)[1] is a British immunologist, specifically a complementologist. He is emeritus Sheila Joan Smith Professor of Immunology at the University of Cambridge, a fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge and honorary fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and of Imperial College. He was knighted for service to medical science in 2002.[2][3]


Born in Berlin in 1931, he moved to London in 1938. He went to school at Christ's College, Finchley,[1] then trained in medicine at Cambridge and University College Hospital, graduating in 1956, and obtained a PhD (1962) and ScD (1974) at Cambridge in immunology. He has held a chair at Cambridge University and served as President of the Royal College of Pathologists, Vice President and Biological Secretary of the Royal Society, and Founder President of the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences among many other positions. His posts specifically in immunology have included Head and Honorary Head of the Medical Research Council Group on Mechanisms in Tumour Immunity and Honorary Director of the MRC Mechanisms in Tumour Immunity Unit. He was also at one point Associate Editor of the journal Clinical and Experimental Immunology among his other published work on the complement system and immunopathology. from 1976 to 1999, he was Honorary Clinical Immunologist with the Cambridge Health Authority. Lachmann has also won numerous international accolades including a Gold Medal from the European Complement Network in 1997, the Medicine and Europe Senior Prize, Academie des Sciences de la Santé in 2003.[4]

Lachmann’s primary research interest now is the downregulation of the complement alternative pathway as a treatment for age related macular degeneration. he has previously worked on many aspects of complement biology; on microbial subversion of the innate immune response; on the immunology of measles, on systemic lupus erythematosus and on insect sting allergies.

Lachmann’s helped produce the Royal Society’s first report on GM crops in 1998. The report, Genetically Modified Plants for Food Use, outlined the benefits of GM plants in agriculture, medicine, food quality and safety, nutrition and health, especially in alleviating food shortage in third-world countries. This caused him to be regarded as a controversial figure by the anti-GM food lobby. In 1999, he tried to persuade the editor of The Lancet not to publish Árpád Pusztai’s research on the adverse effects of GM potatoes on rats on the grounds that it was not sound science. The Lancet’s editor, Richard Horton, said he received a "very aggressive" phone call calling him "immoral" and threatening that if he published the paper it would "have implications for his personal position" as editor.[5] Lachmann said that he made the call but denied that he threatened Horton and said the call was to "discuss his error of judgment" in publishing the Pusztai letter and to discuss the "moral difficulties about publishing bad science".[5] Lachmann's own account of GMOs and the Pusztai affair can be found in Panic Nation (2005).[6]

Lachmann remains a vocal proponent of the defence of reason and scepticism in scientific academia also on other topics that extend from vaccine scares to stem cell technology and to alternative medicine. He is also a bee keeper and this interest has led to an interest in the evolution of group behaviour in both bees and humans and the role of religious prescription as the building blocks of cultural evolution.[7][8]

He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Foreign Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy (1997) and Honorary Foreign Member Czech Academy of Medicine (2012).[9]


  1. ^ a b LACHMANN, Sir Peter (Julius), Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, 2014; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014
  2. ^ "Professor Sir Peter Lachman". The Academy of Medical Sciences. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Anon (2003). "Peter Lachmann". The Lancet. 362 (9380): 338–326. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)13998-0. 
  4. ^ Simon Edwards (2005). "Professor Sir Peter Lachmann (DSc) - Distinguished Immunologist". University of Leicester. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Laurie Flynn and Michael Sean Gillard for The Guardian, October 31, 1999 Pro-GM scientist "threatened editor"
  6. ^ "Panic Nation". John Blake Publishing. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  7. ^ Lachmann, Peter (2010). "Genetic and cultural evolution: from fossils to proteins; and from behaviour to ethics". Eur Rev. 18 (3): 297–309. doi:10.1017/s1062798710000050. 
  8. ^ Lachmann, Peter (2010). "Religion - An evolutionary adaptation". FASEB J. 24: 1301–1307. doi:10.1096/fj.10-0502ufm. 
  9. ^ "Gruppe 7: Medisinske fag" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 


Educational offices
Preceded by
not established
President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, United Kingdom
1998 – 2002
Succeeded by
Sir Keith Peters
Preceded by
Sir Dillwyn Williams
President of the Royal College of Pathologists
1993 – 1996
Succeeded by
Alastair Bellingham