Robert Winston, Baron Winston

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The Lord Winston
Lord Winston 2017.jpg
Winston in 2017
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
18 December 1995
Life peerage
Personal details
Robert Maurice Lipson Winston

(1940-07-15) 15 July 1940 (age 82)
London, England
Political partyLabour
SpouseLira Feigenbaum (m. 1973) (d. 2021)
Alma materLondon Hospital Medical College
OccupationSurgeon, scientist, television presenter, politician, and peer

Robert Maurice Lipson Winston, Baron Winston, FMedSci, FRSA, FRCP, FRCOG, FREng[2] (born 15 July 1940) is a British professor, medical doctor, scientist, television presenter and Labour Party politician.

Early life[edit]

Robert Winston was born in London to Laurence Winston and Ruth Winston-Fox, and brought up as an Orthodox Jew. His mother was Mayor of the former Borough of Southgate. Winston's father died as a result of medical negligence when Winston was nine years old. Robert has two younger siblings: a sister, the artist Willow Winston, and a brother, Anthony.[3]

Winston attended firstly Salcombe Preparatory School until the age of 7, followed by Colet Court and St Paul's School, later graduating from The London Hospital Medical College in 1964 with a degree in medicine and surgery and achieved prominence as an expert in human fertility. For a brief time he gave up clinical medicine and worked as a theatre director,[4] winning the National Directors' Award at the Edinburgh Festival in 1969.[5]

Medical career[edit]

Winston joined Hammersmith Hospital as a registrar in 1970 as a Wellcome Research Fellow. He became an associate professor at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium in 1975. He was a scientific advisor to the World Health Organisation's programme in human reproduction from 1975 to 1977. He joined the Royal Postgraduate Medical School (based at Hammersmith Hospital) as consultant and Reader in 1977.

After conducting research as Professor of Gynaecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 1980, he returned to the UK to run the IVF service set up at Hammersmith Hospital which pioneered various improvements in this technology. He became Dean of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in London until its merger with Imperial College in 1997. He was Director of NHS Research and Development at the Hammersmith Hospitals Trust until 1994. As Professor of Fertility Studies at Hammersmith, Winston led the IVF team that pioneered pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to identify defects in human embryos, and published early work on gene expression in human embryos. He developed tubal microsurgery and various techniques in reproductive surgery, including sterilisation reversal. He performed the world's first Fallopian tubal transplant in 1979 but this technology was later superseded by in vitro fertilisation. Together with Alan Handyside in 1990, his research group pioneered the techniques of pre-implantation diagnosis, enabling screening of human embryos to prevent numerous genetic diseases.

He was the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science from 2004 to 2005. Together with Carol Readhead of the California Institute of Technology, Winston researched male germ cell stem cells and methods for their genetic modification at the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Imperial College London. He has published over 300 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals.[6] He was appointed to a new chair at Imperial College – Professor of Science and Society – and is also emeritus professor of Fertility Studies there. He was Chairman of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Trust and chairs the Women-for-Women Appeal. This charitable trust, which has raised over £80 million for research into reproductive diseases, was renamed the Genesis Research Trust in 1997. From 2001 to 2018 he was Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University.[7]

Winston is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci), an Honorary Fellow[2] of the Royal Academy of Engineering[2] (HonFREng), a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (FRCOG) and of the Royal College of Physicians of London (FRCP), and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS Edin), Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (FRCPS Glasg), and the Royal Society of Biology (FRSB). He holds honorary doctorates from twenty-three universities.[8] He is a trustee of the UK Stem Cell Foundation. He is a patron of The Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Winston holds strong views about the commercialisation of fertility treatment. He believes that ineffective treatments result in great anguish to couples and is alarmed that so many treatments for the symptom of infertility are carried out before proper investigation and diagnosis has been made. He is also sceptical about the effectiveness of current methods for screening human embryos to assess their viability.[3]

Winston has called sex reassignment surgery "mutilation" and has said that "we can remove bits of our body and change our shape and so on but you can't change your sex because that is embedded in your genes in every cell of your body."[9]

Media career[edit]

Appearing on After Dark in 1994

Winston was the presenter of many BBC television series, including Your Life in Their Hands, Making Babies, Superhuman, The Secret Life of Twins, Child of Our Time, Human Instinct, The Human Mind, Frontiers of Medicine and the BAFTA award-winner The Human Body. As a traditional Jew with an orthodox background,[10] he also presented The Story of God, exploring the development of religious beliefs and the status of faith in a scientific age.

He presented the BBC documentary Walking with Cavemen, a major BBC series that presented some controversial views about early man but was endorsed by leading anthropologists and scientists. One theory was that Homo sapiens have a uniquely developed imagination that helped them to survive.

Winston's documentary Threads of Life won the international science film prize in Paris in 2005. His BBC series Child Against All Odds explored ethical questions raised by IVF treatment. In 2008, he presented Super Doctors, about decisions made every day in frontier medicine.

Winston at the Cheltenham Science Festival in 2011

In 2007, Winston appeared in the TV series Play It Again, in which he attempted to learn to play the saxophone, despite not having played a musical instrument since the age of 11, when he learned the recorder.[11]

Among many BBC Radio 4 programmes, he has appeared on The Archers radio soap as a fertility consultant. He has regularly appeared on The Wright Stuff as a panellist as well as numerous chat show programmes such as Have I Got News For You, This Morning, The One Show and various political programmes such as Question Time and Any Questions. Winston is featured in the Symphony of Science episode Ode to the Brain.

He also took part in the 2011 TV series Jamie's Dream School. In recent years, Winston has been featured on The Late Late Show with James Corden in the United States, presenting various entertaining scientific experiments.

Political career[edit]

Winston was created a life peer on 18 December 1995 as Baron Winston, of Hammersmith in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.[12][13][14] He sits on the Labour Party benches in the House of Lords and takes the Labour whip. He speaks frequently in the House of Lords on education, science, medicine and the arts. He was Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology and is a board member and vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, which provides advice to both Houses of Parliament.[15] He is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[16]

Winston has made a number of claims regarding the impact of segregated cycle lanes on air quality and emissions in Central London.[17] He is a member of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, an advisory board created in 2019 and sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which works on ethical and innovative deployment of data-enabled technologies including artificial intelligence.[18]

Personal life[edit]

In 1973, Winston married Lira Helen Feigenbaum. They had three children, Joel, Tanya and Ben who is a film and TV producer and director. Lady Winston died on 16 December 2021.[19] Winston is a fan of Arsenal Football Club.[20] He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a former vice-president of the Royal College of Music and a member of the Garrick Club, the MCC, and the Athenaeum Club in London.[5] He owns a classic 1930s Bentley.[3]

Winston was a council member of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Cancer Research UK, and until 2013 was a member of the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council where he chaired the Societal Issues Panel.[5] He gives many public lectures a year on scientific subjects and has helped to promote science literacy and education by founding the Reach Out Laboratory in Imperial College, which brings schoolchildren of all ages into the university on a daily basis to do practical science and to debate the issues which science and technology raise.[3] Extending this school outreach activity, he acts as ambassador for Outreach for the President of Imperial College, visiting schools across England to discuss scientific issues and career aspiration with students.

Current posts[edit]

Selected former posts[edit]

Honours and awards[edit]

Honorary degrees[edit]

Winston has received at least 23 honorary degrees, These include

Location Date School Degree
 England 14 July 2003 University of Sunderland Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) [28]
 England 8 September 2003 University of Salford Doctorate [29]
 England 2004 Solent University Doctor of Technology (D.Tech.) [30]
 England 2005 Lancaster University Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) [31]
 England University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) [32]
 Scotland 5 July 2010 University of Aberdeen Doctorate [33]
 England 22 July 2011 Loughborough University Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) [34]
 England 5 September 2014 Birmingham City University Doctorate [35][36]
 Israel 5 November 2015 Weizmann Institute of Science Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) [37]

Television documentaries[edit]

Selected published work[edit]

  • "Reversibility of Female Sterilization" (1978)
  • Co-author "Tubal Infertility" (1981)
  • "Infertility – a sympathetic approach" (1985)
  • "Getting Pregnant" (1989)
  • "Making Babies" (1996)
  • "The IVF Revolution" (1999)
  • "Superhuman" (2000)
  • "Human Instinct" (2003)
  • "The Human Mind" (2004), shortlisted for Royal Society Aventis Prize
  • "What Makes Me Me" (2005), winner, Royal Society young people's book prize[39]
  • "Human" (2005), BMA Award for best popular medicine book
  • "The Story of God" (2005) ISBN 0-593-05493-8
  • "Body" (2005)
  • "A Child Against All Odds" (2006)
  • "Play It Again" (2007)
  • "It's Elementary" (2007)
  • "Evolution Revolution" (2009)
  • "What Goes On Inside My head" (2010)
  • "Science Year By Year" (2011)
  • "That's Life" (2012)
  • "Bad Ideas?" An Arresting History of Our Inventions: How Our Finest Inventions Nearly Finished Us Off (2010)
  • "Utterly Amazing Science" (2014), winner, Royal Society young people's book prize[39]
  • "Utterly Amazing Body" (2015)
  • "The Essential Fertility Guide" (2015)
  • When science meets God, Robert Winston, BBC News, Friday, 2 December 2005.
  • Why do we believe in God?, Robert Winston, The Guardian, Thursday, 13 October 2005


  1. ^ "Robert Winston". The Life Scientific. 20 December 2011. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e "List of Fellows". Royal Academy of Engineering.
  3. ^ a b c d Robert Winston: 'I do have a very dark side', The Daily Telegraph, 15 August 2008
  4. ^ Lemon TI, I am a man—nothing human is alien to me Student BMJ 2013;21:f7203
  5. ^ a b c University Chancellor Professor the Lord Winston Sheffield Hallam University
  6. ^ Scientific Publications in Peer-review Journals, The Official Site of Professor Robert Winston, accessed on 26 October 2008
  7. ^ "New Chancellor for Sheffield Hallam University". Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  8. ^ Biography, Official Site of Professor Robert Winston.
  9. ^ Zakir-Hussain, Maryam (14 July 2022). "Transgender surgery is 'mutilation', Dr Robert Winston says". The Independent. Retrieved 16 July 2022.
  10. ^ Epiphanies: Lord Robert Winston The Spirit of Things, ABC National Radio, Australia, 4 June 2006
  11. ^ Play It Again: Robert Winston takes up the saxophone, BBC
  12. ^ "No. 54217". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 November 1995. p. 1.
  13. ^ "No. 54252". The London Gazette. 28 December 1995. p. 17450.
  14. ^ Lord Winston.
  15. ^ "POST Board". UK Parliament. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  16. ^ "LFI Supporters in Parliament". Labour Friends of Israel. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  17. ^ Walker, Peter; Laker, Laura (5 February 2018). "House of Lords peers criticised for 'propagating bike lane myths'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  18. ^ "Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI)". GOV.UK. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  19. ^[bare URL]
  20. ^ Robert Winston: You ask the questions, The Independent, 17 October 2002
  21. ^ Charity for Premature birth, miscarriage, IVF. Retrieved on 2016-05-14.
  22. ^ "UK-Israel Science Council | British Council". Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  23. ^ "Lord Black appointed new Chairman of the Royal College of Music". Royal College of Music. 8 December 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  24. ^ Five minute interview with Professor Lord Winston - University of Surrey - Guildford Archived 14 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2016-05-14.
  25. ^ "Lord Winston". UK Parliament. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  26. ^ Professor Lord Winston marks London tree planting scheme. City of Westminster (17 June 2011)
  27. ^ Professor Lord Winston captures carbon in Marylebone on YouTube
  28. ^ "Trailblazer set to be honoured - Chronicle Live". 11 July 2003.
  29. ^ "Prof Lord Robert Winston, recipient of honorary degree - University of Salford Institutional Repository".
  30. ^ "Honorary graduates".
  31. ^ "Honorary Graduates | Lancaster University".
  32. ^ "Honorary degree for fertility pioneer - Manchester Evening News". 17 February 2007.
  33. ^ "Leading scientist and composer among those to be honoured by University | News | The University of Aberdeen".
  34. ^ "Lord Robert Winston among those to be honoured by Loughborough University".
  35. ^ "Robert Winston | Birmingham City University".
  36. ^ "Lord Winston 'privileged' to receive honorary degree | Jewish News".
  37. ^ "Weizmann UK | Weizmann UK". 18 November 2022.
  38. ^ "BBC One - Panorama, Inside Britain's Fertility Business".
  39. ^ a b Flood, Alison (21 November 2017). "Robert Winston wins fourth Royal Society young people's book prize". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 December 2018.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Bryan Nicholson
Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University
Succeeded by
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by Gentlemen
Baron Winston
Followed by
The Lord Wallace of Saltaire