Anne McLaren

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Dame Anne Laura Dorinthea McLaren , DBE , (born April 26, 1927 - July 7, 2007 ) was a British developmental biologist and geneticist . In 1958, together with John Biggers, she succeeded for the first time in taking embryos of the house mouse from the fallopian tube before implantation in the uterus , storing them in a nutrient medium for two days and then reintroducing them into the uterus so that the embryos can then be used during a normal pregnancy grew up. This experiment, the successful combination of cell culture and embryo transfer , opened the way to in vitro fertilization , pre-implantation diagnostics and stem cell research , the social consequences of which she tried to influence until her death. She belonged to the group of experts who prepared the British law regulating artificial insemination ( Human Fertilization and Embryology Act of 1990).

For her life's work, Anne McLaren was awarded a UNESCO L'Oréal Prize in 2001 and the Japan Prize in 2002 .


Anne McLaren was the daughter of the wealthy and progressive industrialist Henry McLaren, Second Baron Aberconway , and Christabel McNaughten. From 1945 she studied zoology at the University of Oxford , where she first earned a Magister degree in 1949 and a doctorate degree in 1952. She then moved to University College London as a Research Fellow (1952–1955) and worked at times a. a. at JBS Haldane and Peter Brian Medawar , from 1955 to 1959 she worked at the Royal Veterinary College of London . In 1959 Anne McLaren went to Edinburgh , where she ran her own laboratory in the Unit of Animal Genetics of the Agricultural Research Council at the University of Edinburgh until 1974 . In 1974 she returned to London , where she headed the Department of Developmental Biology of Mammals of the Medical Research Council until her retirement in 1992 . She then continued her research at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge.


After her success in the field of embryo transfer, her research interests included a. epigenetic questions, in particular she investigated the influence of the embryo's environment (i.e. the uterus) on the development of the embryo. She later researched the development of germ cells and sex determination . She was able to identify the cells in the early embryo from which its germ cells develop. These findings were later used to create cell lines from these largely undifferentiated embryonic cells . She also combined cells from different embryos into chimeras and wrote an influential textbook on this biotechnical method.

From 1991 to 1996 Anne McLaren was Foreign Secretary responsible for the Royal Society's international contacts: She was the first woman to hold a leadership position since this learned society was founded (1660). In 1975 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1990 she was awarded the Royal Medal by the Royal Society , and in 1991 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . In 2007 she was awarded the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology .


Anne McLaren felt the socialism obliged belonged at the time of the Cold War, the Communist Party of Great Britain , and supported repeated anti-war demonstrations of the British peace movement . When she was awarded the Japan Prize in Tokyo in 2002 in the presence of the entire government leadership , she asked for Where Have All the Flowers Gone (sung by Joan Baez ) and the John Lennon piece Imagine for the musical accompaniment , as it was an expression of “one world of peace, love and social harmony ”.

Anne McLaren was married to her colleague Donald Michie from 1955 to 1959 and had three children with him. a. the economist Jonathan Michie . They remained good friends even after their divorce, and since 2005 they have been living together again. On July 7, 2007, they died together as a result of a car accident on the M1 motorway between Cambridge and London .


As a child, she starred in the 1936 film What's To Come .

Fonts (selection)

  • with John D. Biggers: Successful development and birth of mice cultivated in vitro as early embryos. In: Nature . Volume 182, 1958, pp. 877-878, doi: 10.1038 / 182877a0
  • Mammalian Chimaeras. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK) 1976, ISBN 0-521-21183-2

Individual evidence

  1. a b Janet Rossant , Brigid Hogan: Manne McLaren (1927-2007). In: Science . Volume 317, 2007, p. 609, doi: 10.1126 / science.1147801
  2. Anne McLaren dies. Royal Society medal winner was a leader in mammalian development research. On: of July 11, 2007
  3. a b Dame Anne McLaren. Geneticist resolute in addressing the techniques and ethics of fertility. On: of July 10, 2007
  4. Biography ( memento of March 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) on
  5. Azim Surani , Jim Smith: Anne McLaren (1927-2007). In: Nature . Volume 448, 2007, pp. 764-765, doi: 10.1038 / 448764a