Anne McLaren DBE, DPhil, FRS, FRCOG
April 26th 1927 - July 7th 2007
Members of the Gurdon Institute were greatly saddened to learn of the death on Saturday 7th July of our colleague Anne McLaren and of her companion Donald Michie. Our deepest sympathy goes to members of Anne's and Donald's families and to their many friends.
My colleagues and I will miss Anne enormously. Her scientific achievements speak for themselves, but in addition to these we will miss her enormous energy and enthusiasm (she outdid many younger scientists during late-night discussions) and her unfailing support for women scientists, for whom she was a wonderful role model. As Chairman of the Institute I shall also miss her great knowledge and wisdom and her unfailing ability to put matters into perspective. She was a great colleague and a great friend.
Jim Smith, Chairman (2001-2008), Gurdon Institute
A booklet celebrating the lives of Anne and Donald and documenting the contributions offered at the Zoological Society in London on 19th July 2007, is available to download here.
Some of the international events organised in Anne's memory are listed here:
• The End of the HFEA: Are We Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater? In the 20th anniversary year of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Ebryology Authority, an evening debate was held at the Royal Society on 17th January 2011, organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) in partnership with the Anne McLaren Memorial Fund and supported by the Medical Research Council, to discuss how fertility treatment and embryo research could (and should) be regulated in future.
• An Anne Mclaren Fund Public Education Event was held on 10 March 2010 from 17.30-19.00, in The Yusuf Hamied Theatre, Christ's College when Melanie Davies and Susan Bewley led a discussion on the reality of ovarian ageing for the young professional woman. For podcast and photos click here.
• The Annual Anne McLaren Memorial Lecture of the 8th Annual ISSCR Meeting was given by Brigid L Hogan (Duke University), in San Francisco on 16-19 June 2010.
• The annual Gurdon Institute Lecture for 2010 was given on 4 May 2010 by Susan Gasser of Friedrich Miescher Institute
• Anne McLaren Fellowships 2010 (University of Nottingham)
• Video records of Anne McLaren Memorial Lectures, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University (RSS subscription, free)
• The annual Dame Anne McLaren Memorial Lecture, UK national Stem Cell Network
• The Future of Biological Control: the legacy of Anne McLaren in law, ethics and policy in reproductive biomedicine Wellcome Collection Conference Centre July 2008
If you notice an omission or would like to add an item to the above list, please send details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Memorial fund and donations
A memorial fund has been created in Anne's name, to endow an annual event or support the work of a scholar in a relevant field. Should you wish to make a donation to the fund, which would be much appreciated, please download, print and return the following form:
If you wish to assist in the promotion of the fund, please feel free to download and distribute the following A4 poster:
Our grateful thanks to everyone who has already donated, including:
McLaren and Donald
• See also: The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Messages of remembrance
We have now closed this page - sincere thanks to everyone who contributed.
Si Qin, Sanger Institute:
"See you in Inner Mongolia this summer." These were the last words Anne said to me and my husband in January of this year. I have been so lucky to have worked at Azim’s lab; it gave me a chance to become close to Anne McLaren. Not only was she a lovely person, she always gave us great suggestions at lab meetings! Everybody knows Anne was a most brilliant scientist, but she was also passionate about the growing problems the world is facing, particularly the environment. This August, the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the University of Inner Mongolia are holding a conference: the International Young Scientist Forum on Mammalian Reproductive Biotechnology. We invited Anne to be a keynote speaker and as always, she was very enthusiastic. She told us she was also very keen to find out about the growing desertification in Inner Mongolia and how people are dealing with it. I promised her that I would take a summer holiday to go back to my homeland to wait for her, and arrange to visit the desert together with her. Sadly, I found out in July that this would not be possible. In a few days time, I will still be going to Inner Mongolia, but it will be without Anne, and her absence will be felt in every moment, not only by myself but by all the people who so eagerly awaited to meet her.
Anne, we love you, Inner Mongolia will be very lonely without you.
A tragic loss of a great scientist, a wonderful personal friend and one of the kindest, most modest and generous people that it has ever been my privilege to know. Her passing will leave a sad gap in all of our lives.
Anne was the chairperson at my interview for a Lister Fellowship. I will never forget her kindness or the way she strove to make me feel at ease. The following few years I got to know Anne due to her interest in mitochondrial genetics and maternal transmission. She was a lovely lady and someone I will always remember very fondly.
Spanish National Stem Cell Bank Members:
Dr. Pablo Menéndez, Sub-Director
of the Spanish Stem Cell Bank and Director of the Andalusia Stem Cell Bank
On behalf of the Spanish National Stem Cell Bank, we wish to convey our deepest sympathy upon the death of a great scientist and excellent colleague, Professor Anne McLaren. She will be remembered among the scientific community for her many accomplishments as a developmental biologist and geneticist, as well as for her continuos efforts and interest in science and bioethics.
She will be remembered with respect and admiration and be missed by all.
Marianne Bronner-Fraser, Caltech:
I was so sorry to hear about Anne's passing. She was one of the most vibrant people I knew. Anne tackled both science and life with enormous enthusiasm. She has always been an inspiration to me and will be sorely missed. Please convey my sincere condolences to her family members.
Francesca Cesari, Nature, former Surani lab:
I feel very lucky that I had the chance to meet and work with Anne during my time at the Gurdon Institute and more recently at Nature. She was and still is a great inspiration, in science and life… "Never miss a chance to eat a huge piece of chocolate cake" she used to tell me… I still smile thinking of it. Thank you Anne.
Vani Brahmachari, Delhi University:
It is impossible to accept that Anne is no more with us. I had the great fortune of working with her at MRC London in late 80s and share the excitement of the work on Sxr mice. She was a great source of inspiration and a role model hard to emulate. My husband and me always looked forward to her visit and valued the long discussions on science and science policies. I was always struck by her ability to seamlessly integrate the classical and the modern in terms tools of research to get to the bottom of what it 'takes to get from generation to the next'. She was a legend in terms of her unlimited energy and her self-reliance. She always insisted on carrying her bag and papers herself however heavy they were! On her last trip to India in November 2006 I am glad she could spend a couple days at Delhi and remember her enthusiasm about the metro system at Delhi and even took a ride to the University. I dearly treasure these memories.
Chun-che Chang, National Taiwan University, former Akam Lab:
When I was just entering the second-year of my Ph.D. in the autumn of 1997, Dr Anne McLaren came to see my first poster, the first-ever academic poster of my life, at the Institute's annual retreat meeting. I will never forget her comments - a consecutive "Very Interesting" (at least twice, I remember), on the preliminary data of my grasshopper germ-cell project. I am sure she did not remember her comments, but those words turned out to be such a strong encouragement that drove me to carry out some difficult experiments afterwards. In my memory, whenever I was talking to her about my research on germ cells, she was always an excellent listener as well as being very encouraging to me. I feel much sorrow for her passing but do believe that she has deeply inspired many young researchers and her influence will continue.
Katsuhiko Hayashi, Surani Lab, Gurdon Institute:
I deeply thank for your generous and accurate advice. I am very proud that I had a good time with you. I will never forget you.
I only knew Anne for a short time, having met her at a recent Banbury Center stem cell course, but am so grateful for our discussions and being the recipient of her insight. She was an amazing person, a tremendous inspiration for me.
Maxine J Sutcliffe:
I was one of the privileged who was mentored by Anne at the MRC Walton Laboratory University College in the 80s when I was undertaking my PhD. Very, very saddened to hear of this loss. But for Anne, it would have been one of the ways she wanted to go - not lingering and sickened but in the middle of doing something active and enjoyable. She was to me one of the few people I have every met who I considered brilliant - a 'genius'. By that I mean her mental acuity and outstanding success in so many fields, linguistics, arts, science, family member, etc etc - so many ways. Most of us, given sufficient number of years, can be relatively successful in the field we choose, but rarely are we successful in other fields as well. My admiration is boundless and I will always feel indebted to her professionally and personally because, in addition, she was a friend.
Susana Chuva de Sousa Lopes, former postdoc in the McLaren lab:
Anne had and has mythological status. Everybody respected her, loved her, admired her. Everybody. If you would ask anybody in the field who would she/he would like to meet most, I bet most of the times she/he would choose for Anne, not only because of who she was as a scientist, but also because of who she was as a person. I also dreamed of meeting Anne and I was one of the lucky few she mentored. But meeting your hero could be disappointing...but in the case of Anne, this proved totally wrong. Anne was everything I had expected and much much, oh so much more. Even now coming back to the lab or meeting Anne around the world was always something I really looked forward to, seeing Anne, arms stretched to me, expecting a good hug and a good conversation. Anne was simply extraordinary. I loved her and I miss her very much.
Robin Plumridge, former technician Gurdon Institute:
It's all been said. What can I add? Our paths crossed so very infrequently, indeed I hardly knew her compared to her many contacts around the world, but to me Anne was a lovely lady who always had time to explain to the uninformed like me. Perhaps it was just as well that I had no idea that she loved football. We would have talked for ever.
Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs:
Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, President
In so many ways, Anne McLaren embodied the spirit of the Pugwash community and its fundamental credo, drawn from the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, of the social responsibility of scientists. Anne's tenure on the Pugwash Council was marked by her liveliness of spirit, independence of thought, and warm collegiality. We will greatly miss her contributions to our work, while knowing full well that Anne transmitted these qualities to succeeding generations of scientists who will follow her.
Michiji Konuma, former Member of Pugwash Council, Japan:
The news of Anne's unexpected sudden death came as a shock to me. I spent most agreeable times with her in many Pugwash meetings. She was always soft and frank, and very sharp in discussions. She was very pleased to have been awarded the prestigious Japan Prize in 2002 by her "Pioneering work on mammalian embryonic development". The Awarding Ceremony was held on April 23, 2002 in Tokyo at the presence of the Emperor of Japan. She gave there a lecture on "Embryos, cells, genes - and Society". Please forward my heartful condolences to her family.
Jayantha Dhanapala, President-elect, Pugwash Conferences, Sri Lanka:
I did not have the privilege of knowing her, but do please convey my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Anne McLaren. We salute a dedicated stalwart in the cause of peace and disarmament.
Pan Zhenqiang, Member of Pugwash Council, China:
I am so shocked and so sad to hear of the news that Anne has passed away. This was indeed incredible, and such a loss to Pugwash and all the people who wish to join the efforts for the world peace and security! But we have to accept the fact. To remember her, what we should do is to continue to do our work well and strengthen our efforts to carry on the Pugwash spirit for a better world. I think Anne would agree to this. I pray that she rest in peace. Please also convey my deep condolence to her family.
Niu Qiang, Chinese Pugwash group:
We are very sad to learn that Anne McLaren has died in a car accident. We would like to express our deepest condolences to her family. We believe the Pugwash community will very much miss her.
Siddiq Wahid, Kashmir, India:
I did not know Anne, but thank you for this message. As one gets to know Pugwash, one finds out that it is made up of extraordinary human beings, apart from professionally competent. I am sure her absence will surely be a loss to Pugwash as well. My condolences to her family.
N.S. Sisodia, Convenor, Indian Pugwash Society:
We are very sorry to receive the news of the death of Anne McLaren. Please convey our sincere condolences to her family and friends. The Pugwash community has indeed lost a scientific and humane mind that has been an inspiration both to those who knew her personally and those who knew her through her work. With our deepest condolences.
Karen Hallberg, Pugwash Argentina:
I was also struck by this very sad news. Anne was always so active in Pugwash and the council meetings. She was also an outstanding scientist with a strong social influence. I intended to meet her one of these days during my stay in London. What a great loss. With best regards.
Marie Muller & Nola Dippenaar and the South African National Pugwash Group:
All Pugwashites in South Africa who have had the privilege of knowing Anne, with her very friendly personality and very alert mind, are stunned and very saddened by her death. This is a real loss to the Pugwash community. Our sincerest and warmest condolences to her family.
Yuri Ryzhov, Russian Academy of Sciences, Chairman
of the Russian Pugwash Committee at the RAS Presidium,
We very sorry to receive the sad news of the death of Professor Anne McLaren. She was a world-wide known scientist in fields of development biology and genetics, prominent public figure, active Pugwashite and member of the Pugwash Council, and since 1999 Foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). We send to all members of her family, as well as to members of the British Pugwash Group, our sincere condolences.
Jane Butcher, Women Returners Manager, UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering & Technology:
We at the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering & Technology were greatly saddened to hear the news of Anne McLaren’s death. Anne was an eminent scientist, respected in her field, but she was also acutely aware of the barriers facing many women looking to work and progress within science. As a founder member and President of AWiSE, she helped many women to follow in her footsteps. Just a few days before her death, she was on the panel awarding the L’Oreal/ UNESCO/ UKRC fellowships, which support women to progress within their field of scientific research. She will be missed by the scientific community as a whole and by all of us working to improve the visibility and progression of women in science. A fund in her name to support studentships and fellowships for women scientists is a fitting tribute and we will be proud to contribute.
I am very sad to have lost a much-loved and inspirational role model, but also immensely glad that I was privileged to have known Anne, learnt from her, and travelled with her, mainly to the former Soviet Union, Mongolia and China.
I worked with Anne from the end of 1991, when she became the Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, and immediately fell under her spell. She made history as the first woman 'Officer' of the RS, as the Presidents and Vice Presidents are known, but she was simply 'Anne' to us on the staff, and distinguished herself by her warmth and approachability, lack of fuss and ceremony, and of course her wise and understated style, all of which contributed hugely to the Society's success in relations with scientists around the world. Most people will think of her as a scientist - but using her talent for listening, questioning and problem solving she was also able to sort out some delicate international issues. Many young women scientists owe to Anne imaginative innovations in grant procedures that enabled them to continue their scientific careers.
Dorothy Wright, Dept IT Manager, London School of Hygiene:
I moved to the UK from the US in October 1991, to a job offer in Marilyn Monk's lab in Anne's MRC Mammalian Development Unit (in its last 6 months before Anne's "retirement"). Lunch times in this unit were pretty interesting,as you might imagine, and my earliest friends in the UK were made here. I doubt I'd have stayed and grown to love living here if I hadn't been so lucky in this job. I'm no longer an academic, having somewhere along the way transmogrified into an IT person, but I've gotten increasingly political. When ever I go to a rally or protest, I'm reminded of Anne telling me about jumping the barriers to run away from the police at the poll tax riots. The image this produces in my head always makes me smile. Oddly, I told this story to a friend less than 24 hours before I learned of Anne's death.
Conincidentally, my sister in Australia got to meet Anne (and Marilyn) as they did work there that included my sister's partner. My sister was also most impressed, and it was she who sent me an email telling me of Anne's death. They (Vivienne Wright and Feach Moyle) are also deeply saddened.
I am so impressed reading all the tributes and obituaries, and so sorry I hadn't seen Anne in several years (last ran into her at the dentist's!). I'm incredibly lucky to have known and worked with her for the short time that I did, and agree with Mia that I hope someone writes an account of Anne's life in all its aspects. I look foward to reading it.
The enthusiasm with which she supported young women scientists, along with everything else she did was inspirational. I hope to, (over time), donate the equivalent of the first month's salary I made working in Anne's unit to the Cambridge fund in her name . Shame I lost the argument with her that I should be paid more;)
Igor Zhimulev, Professor of Genetics, President of Novosibirsk Division of Vavilov Society of Russian Geneticists:
I express my deep condolence to family, relatives and all the friends and colleagues of Anne McLaren. She was real friend of Russian geneticists. Her outstanding successes were estimated by election her as an honorary member of Russian Academy of Sciences.
Mitinori Saitou, Center for Developmental Biology, RIKEN Kobe Institute:
I was terribly shocked when I heard the very very sad news on Anne. Clearly, Anne was one of the most wonderful scientists I have ever met. Since I was a member of Azim's lab, I had many chances to discuss with her. Her comments and suggestions on our work were always very helpful and I was so many times surprised at her keen viewpoints and insights. Even after I left Cambridge, I was privileged to have many chances to discuss with her when we met at international meetings such as Gordon Conference and CSHL meetings on Germ Cells. One recent thing that I remember is that Anne was very interested in a potential manner by which Blimp1-positive cells (PGC precursors) increase in number to form approximately 40 founder PGCs, which her seminal work described in 1990 and how this could be reconciled with the clonal analysis on the origin of germ cells by Dr. Kirstie Lawson. Anne, Kirstie and I had a good discussion on it at a Gordon Conference and Anne subsequently published her ideas in Differentiation.
Anne kindly visited us privately in Kobe before attending to a meeting on germ cells held in Kyoto in 2005. I went to pick her up at the airport and took her to a hotel. It was Saturday morning and I presumed that she should be very tired after a long journey and asked her if she needs to take a rest before seeing around our institute in Kobe. Surprisingly, at least to me, she responded by saying, "Tiredness never comes to me!" She indeed energetically saw around the institute and had a chat with many people. At that night, we went to a small Japanese Izakaya (a sort of pub) together and she tried many Japanese cuisine and Sake. She told me that it was in 1960s when she first came over to Japan (before I was born) and it was through the Siberia and then by ship! It is now a very good memory for me that on next Sunday, together with my family, we went to see Himeji castle, one of the most nicely preserved castle in Japan.
I miss her greatly and it is still very difficult to accept that we have no more chance to talk to her.
I am terribly sorry to hear the sad news. The first and, regret to say, the last chance for me to know Anne well was when she privately visited us before a meeting in Kyoto in 2005. As so many people know, she was a very thoughtful and, at the same time, lovely person and I respected greatly her attitude towards life. Even for our four-year-old son Shuuichi, the time spent with Anne must be unforgettable. Please accept my deepest sympathy.
Ulrike Lange, Surani Lab, Gurdon Institute:
I will remember Anne as a very lively lady, always full of energy, very focused and sharp and always coming up with lots interesting facts and ideas about whatever topic the discussion had come to. She amazed me tremendously with her wisdom and never ending curiosity about life. I feel very lucky that I had a chance to meet and work with such a grand person.
My condolences to her family, friends and colleagues around the world.
Mia Buehr, Institute for Stem Cell Research, Edinburgh:
In 1969 I arrived in the UK from America, with a newly-minted PhD in Xenopus developent and no contacts whatsoever in British science. I had always admired Anne's published work and on impulse wrote to her asking if she knew of any suitable job for me. She replied immediately offering me a position in her lab. Since then we have worked together on and off, in Edinburgh, London, and all too briefly in Cambridge, and her generosity and greatness of heart never left her. I miss her terribly, and still can't quite take in the fact that she is no longer there to answer my e-mails, or to offer me a place to stay when I next visit Cambridge or London.
There have been many tributes to her personal goodness and her contributions to science, but besides these things, to me she was also a unique historic figure. She was one of the last of the generation of scientists who could be both effective hands-on benchworkers, and science administrators and communicators of international stature. Historically she bridges the gap between scientists such as Haldane and Waddington, and the new generation leading science today. I hope that someone will soon consider writing an account of Anne's fascinating personal and professional life. There are too few people like her, and we need to record her life while it is still fresh in our memories
John West, University of Edinburgh:
I was a PhD student of Anne's in Edinburgh in the early 1970's. They were wonderful times. Anne was always a fantastic inspiration, a great support and lots of fun. She was full of energy and seemed to have time for everyone and everything – she spent time with her children, ran her lab, guided her students, travelled to scientific meetings and still worked at the bench. (I never understood how she managed this balance and when I was a student I secretly believed there were three of her.) She was a wonderful experimental scientist with a brilliant knack of cutting to the heart of complex issues. She guided us as students by encouraging us to keep an open, enquiring mind and pursue our own ideas (however daft they might seem) as long as we tested them rigorously. Anne taught me that science was fun and she continued to support and encourage me throughout my career. Like everyone else, I will miss Anne greatly but when I think of her it will always bring back happy memories.
Suren Zakian, Institute Cytology and Genetics, Novosibirsk:
I am heart-struck with the tragical death of Anne McLaren. This is an immeasurable and grievous loss. Cherished memory and kowtow to my friend Anne McLaren
Kathy Cheah, Department of Biochemistry, University of Hong Kong:
It is with a such a great sense of loss that I send this message about Anne. I am so so sad to have lost a great friend and mentor of over 20 years. My memories of Anne go back to the summer of 1984 when I was first welcomed by Anne as a visiting scientist to her unit, MDU, just starting out as a young lecturer in Hong Kong. This marked the beginning of annual summer meetings with Anne which span the next 23 years. I shall always remember Anne's kindness, generosity, wisdom and mentorship thoughout my career. She would always find time to meet with me, discuss research and impart wise counsel on life's trials and tribulations. She was always ready to help - coming to Hong Kong on several occasions, to teach on the "Hong Kong Mouse Course" and stem cell workshops where she inspired so many students and scientists. It is with regret that we did not meet last summer because of differences in timing. And I am so sorry that I didn't learn of her 80th birthday celebrations until later. But this is typical of Anne’s modest nature, never wishing for a fuss to be made of her. I was so happy that this year we were going to meet on Thursday the 12th July. My last memory of her was the email sent on that fateful Saturday afternoon, making sure of the time to meet, but it was never to be and I am so sad that we will not meet again. But I carry with me memories of that twinkle in her eye, raised eyebrows, mischievous smile and the many laughs we shared together. Thank you Anne for your wise counsel, for having enriched my life and supported me through so many years. I will miss you terribly. And to your family, you can be so proud, Anne was such a special person to me and so many and contributed so much to society, she will be missed by us all. My thoughts, wishes and prayers go to you all for comfort at this difficult time.
Virginie Sottile, Nottingham University:
I first met Anne when she came to visit the fellows holding an Anne McLaren Fellowship in Nottingham. We kept in touch and she became a very special mentor. Anne was a wonderful inspiration, a role model, and a special human being. She was interested in every subject and was generous of her advice and time, despite a very busy diary. Her sharp, inquisitive and joyful conversation was a treat. It is a very sad loss for science, for women in science, and for all who knew her.
Paul Henderson, Director of Science (1995-2003), The Natural History Museum:
The great sadness on learning of Anne's death is tempered somewhat by the knowledge of her long and successful life. It was nothing but a pleasure to work with Anne when she was a Trustee of the Natural History Museum, not only because of her scientific insights and contributions but also because of her empathy with the scientific staff and her understanding of their needs. She brought a sensitivity and awareness into debates on staff issues that perhaps feature too rarely in today's world of meeting targets. She was a great supporter of the Museum and contributed to it in many ways.
Dame Veronica Sutherland, President, Lucy Cavendish College:
At Lucy Cavendish College, we are all extremely sad to hear of the death of Anne McLaren who was one of our valued Honorary Fellows. She was a regular visitor to our College and a strong supporter of all our activities. She was particularly encouraging to our scientists, many of whom were returning to work after career breaks. We shall all miss her very much for her energy, her kindness and her wisdom.
Maithreyi Narasimha, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, India:
It has been extremely hard to bring myself to write about Anne in past tense. I had met her only a few days earlier at the Gurdon Institute and that meeting, like every other I have had, left me in amazement.
Anne was an enormous source of inspiration, knowledge, advice, encouragement and comfort. It was great to have her around at lab meetings (while I was a graduate student in the Surani lab) - she inspired thoroughness and clarity and I benefited immensely from her comments, criticisms and advice. She would come back from conferences with notes from presentations she thought might be relevant to what I was doing: all the useful details would be in there. Seeing her at the institute, often peering down a microscope late at night was very comforting: she made it all seem worthwhile. I was always amazed by her curiosity: she would listen patiently and carefully to what I had been up to, even when after I had switched to working with flies and then ask me a question that I knew I had to go back and think harder about. She had asked after I had had my first good taste of flies, "tell me Maithreyi, are they really more interesting than mouse germ cells?" On her recent visit to India, she shocked and surprised us by walking alone some 8 kms and back from her guesthouse to the heart of Bangalore one hot and sunny Sunday morning, guided only by a map I had given her. She had said she loved maps but streets in India are seldom signposted. She returned to give me an accurate analysis of the neighbourhoods she had visited and confessed that she feared we might have held her back from doing it, had she told us before hand.
Anne was a great and wonderful woman. She had so much to give and share. She was one of my favourite people.
I will miss her enormously.
John Clarke, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford:
She had been a marvellous friend ever since my arrival in Zoology, Oxford, from Australia, in October 1947. We had years of discussion about, and within, the Society for the Study of Fertility, and in related circumstances. I was and am inspired her unfailing fairness and rationality, the lucidity of her mind, her remarkable ability to sum up briefly an otherwise unstructured discussion or argument within a committee, or in more personal situations. She would give, when sought, warm, sympathetic guidance on all matters, whether scientific or personal. She was great fun at the social events of scientific meetings, where, among many other endearing attributes, she, without ostentation, showed herself to be an exemplary folk dancer, guiding others of us, less knowledgeable and less skilled than her, in the intricacies of a round: that stands for the way of her life.
It was almost 40 yrs ago, as I was finishing my PhD, that I first encountered Anne. I was working on lampbrush chromosomes in newts and had never heard of her, let alone met her. I received a letter enquiring whether I had ever thought of working on mammalian embryos. If not, would I be interested in visiting her lab in Edinburgh for a week 'to have a look at some'. As I was to discover this letter was a perfect reflection of Anne's persona - gentle, inquisitive and full of intrigue.
That was the start of an intensive and immensely satisfying 20 yr collaboration with Anne, diverting me from an intended ecology career. She was always inspirational, encouraging, supportive and never failed to provide the, often missing, sharp focus to my research efforts. Reading the comments of others I suspect that Anne has done this for just about everyone at some time or other.
All those who have worked with Anne had a tremendous amount of fun. They will long remember the often crazy, always revealing, late-night discussions and the somewhat mischievous sparkle in her eyes that accompanied a successful outcome. Although instrumental in the development of many students research work Anne never claimed credit by way of shared authorship. Were she to have done so her publications list would be in the thousands.
Even after I left the research arena (and returned to the woods) Anne maintained a close interest in what I was doing, keeping me informed of what was going on. I think this was in case I had second thoughts and wished to return to the fray - yet another example of her caring nature. Another Anne in my second career would have been a real bonus.
I have a deep, enduring love of this great, self-effacing lady - she will be sorely missed.
Anatoly Ruvinsky, University of New England, Australia:
Shock and great sadness are my feelings today. Ann McLaren left unforgettable memories. I shall never forget our meetings in Siberia, London and Bejing. Her hospitality and friendship were incomparable. She met my family in Heathrow and arrange everything starting from our accommodation to my lectures in England and Scotland. Her intellect and charm were so great! Time spent in her company was always a precious gift to me.
Yongsheng Liu, Henan Institute of Science and Technology:
Nobody can well imagine how much I have been shocked and saddened by the terribly sad news of Anne's death. I do not believe that this is true. After reading the Fax from Dr. Jim Smith over and over again, I realize that I have lost a wonderful teacher and a great friend. I cannot refrain from tears.
When I was an undergraduate student, I was taught both Mendelian genetics and Michurinist genetics. Graft hybridization is a type of asexual hybridization in which heritable changes may be induced by grafting. In 1868, Darwin coined the term Graft hybrid and graft hybridization, which he believed to be striking evidence in favor of his Pangenesis. Based on Darwin’s research, Michurin elaborated a simple and efficient method for producing graft hybrids -- "mentor-grafting" method. Later graft hybridization as a chapter was included in the textbook of Michurinist genetics. However, most Mendelian geneticists refuse to accept the existence of graft hybrids. To solve this problem, I conducted grafting experiments and obtained positive results. I also collected reports on graft hybridization from the scientific literature. In 2003, I wrote a short paper but it was rejected by several journals. Under these circumstances, I ventured to write an email to Anne and asked her to give me some suggestions and to help me revise my paper.
I was very happy that she replied me. She told me that the whole topic of graft hybridization, the inheritance of acquired characteristics and epigenetics as well as genetic changes, is one of very interest at the present time. She knew that there is convincing published literature on heritable changes induced by grafting. She suggested that I write a longer review article, with more of the published evidence. She also promised me that she would be happy to help me with my writing. Recently, my review article entitled "historical and modern genetics of plant graft hybridization" has been finally published in Advances in Genetics (2006, 56, 101-129). I am deeply indebted to Anne for her numerous suggestions and constant encouragement. This article could not have been written without her inspiration, help, and advice.
Darwin spent a considerable part of his career attempting to study the causes of variation and reveal the laws of inheritance. He placed the idea at the heart of his two-volume work, The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, published in 1868, systematically building up the text to support. He called the theory "provisional hypothesis of Pangenesis". It was in this theory of heredity that Darwin tried to account for all the observable facts and laws of inheritance – a considerable variety of phenomena to unite under a common theory. Natural selection and Pangenesis are two of Darwin’s most important public theories. Although the former theory is now widely accepted, Pangenesis has been largely thought to be wrong and resolutely excluded from the pale of genetics for more than a century, and is now only of historical interest. The main reason has been that Galton obtained negative results when he tried to test Pangenesis by blood transfusion experiments on rabbits. Galton concluded that Darwin’s Pangenesis was pure and simple, incorrect. Darwin (1871) responded in a letter to Nature, aimed at undermining the basis of Galton’s disproof: “In the chapter on Pangenesis in my 'Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' I have not said one word about the blood or about any fluid proper to any circulating system…. It does not appear to me that Pangenesis has, as yet, received its death blow; though from presenting so many vulnerable points, its life is always in jeopardy”. In order to see if there are positive results by blood transfusion, I searched the scientific literature. There are indeed positive reports, but most of them were written in Russian. It is amazing that Anne can read in Russian. Thus she translated the main contents of several important Russian references into English for me. It has been indicated that by means of blood transfusions it is possible to change the hereditary constitution of animals, especially in poultry. Among 50 reports on blood transfusion I collected, 45 obtained positive results and only 5 obtained negative results. There is thus a considerable body of experimental evidence for animal vegetative hybridization by blood transfusion, which cannot be disregarded simply because Galton had negative results.
Several days ago, I was happy to learn that the 2007 March of Dimes Prize in developmental biology was awarded to Anne and a Canadian scientist from the Nature Reviews Genetics. I was going to write an email to congratulate her. Unfortunately, the terribly sad news of Anne’s death arrives before I write the congratulation letter. I still don’t want to accept the fact that Anne is dead. Anne’s memory will be cherished always!
It is 3:00 am (time in Canada) now, but I still cannot fall asleep. I am reading the emails that Anne sent to me and the manuscripts on which Anne revised. I have been deeply moved by her enthusiasm, encouragements, patience and many other excellent moral characters. Anne's death reminds me of Marie Curie.
In a tribute in memory of Marie Curie, Einstein wrote: "It is the ethical qualities of its leading personalities that are perhaps of even greater significance for a generation and for the course of history than the purely intellectual accomplishments. Even these latter are, to a far greater degree than is commonly credited, dependent on the stature of character". I believe that these words are also suitable for Anne.
Yen-Sin Ang, Mount Sinai School of Med:
My acquaintance with Dr McLaren was brief but ironically, exceptionally engrained in me! The testimonies we read here are concrete evidences that the world had just lost an irreplaceable scientist, amicable mentor and a beautiful human being!
Rosemary Akhurst, UC San Francisco:
In honor of Anne, who was incredibly supportive of me as I began my career as an independent scientist at St. Mary's in the mid 1980's. Her enthusiasm was an inspiration that remains with me today.
My sincere sympathy to her family, and to all her colleagues at the Gurdon Institute.
Takashi Tada, Kyoto University:
Unexpected loss of my friend and mother-like Anne by the terrible car accident make me really sad. I have believed that we will be together in some international meeting at some place soon again. But, no Anne any more.
I would say thanks from the bottom of my heart to Anne. I am really enjoyed to spend my personal and work time with Anne with a lot of chat, precious suggestion and painful comments for me. Of course, sometimes with pitchers of beer.
Anne gave me words when I left from Cambridge, “You need not only novel prize work but also bread and butter” Now I can understand well. Anne has taught how important encourage people and how encourage the people. Anne has always encouraged me with deeply hearty words. Anne gave me frank and open comments to my personal problems for a couple of hours in precious meeting time like my mother.
I cannot forget Anne’s brilliant smile expressing her knowledge and witty wisdom. I have inherited something from Anne, which is invisible but certainly existing. I believe that is the key to treasure and the key message from Anne for happy life.
I am very proud of the time spend with Anne. I am very sad that I have to say Good-by.
Thanks for your affectionate consideration.
David Whittingham, St George's University of London:
You have been such an inspiration to so many people that my tribute to you is that you were one of the most wonderful people that I have met in my lifetime. My love to you extends beyond today into tomorrow.
The huge loss of an inspirational scientist is countered with provision for those of the future. Out of tragedy springs hope.
Brian Heap, Cambridge:
What a dreadful and sudden loss for everyone who knew Anne! We are all bereft. Her career spanned one of the most exciting periods of modern biology and she contributed enormously to reproductive biology, developmental biology and genetics. She made a formative contribution also to the growth of the former Society for the Study of Fertility, while her input into bioethical issues whether at Westminster or Brussels was outstanding in lucidity and wisdom.
Bedra Sharif, PhD Student, Zernicka-Goetz Lab:
I was shocked and saddened to hear of Anne McLaren’s death. She was a most diligent and knowledgeable scientist, supportive of her colleagues and extremely well spoken. I sat with her for lunch during one Institute Retreat. It was then that she told me quite matter-of-factly, that she was an Oxford graduate. She never boasted of her achievements. Instead, she asked whether I would join them to watch the football match and, to her dismay, I said I have not been to Oxford before and would prefer to go for a walk about town. I was grateful and touched when she produced a paper and pen and drew a map of the way to the town centre, through the park. The map was very accurate.
Nikolay Kolchanov, Acting Director, Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences:
It is with grief and deep sorrow that we received the news of the tragic loss of Professor Anne McLaren, an outstanding scientist and a beautiful person. Her death is a loss to the world's scientific community.
Our condolence to her family and all of those who had the privilege to know Anne. She will be sincerely missed by the people at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics RAS.
Andy McMahon, Harvard University:
Anne has been the most inspirational figure in my scientific career. Anne combined a sense of fun and enjoyment in research with a remarkable intellectual rigor. Despite her own impressive achievements, she always had time for the fledgling scientific efforts of the emerging junior scientist. She remained approachable despite a frightning work and travel commitment. Above all else Anne was a very human scientist. On many occassions, faced with a problem in my scientific or non-scientific life I have asked myself - what might Anne have done? I will continue to adopt this reflective model, it has served me well. My sympathies to Anne and Donald's children.
Elizabeth Simpson, Imperial College, London:
I met Anne in the mid-1970s, at a party at Peter Medawar's house in London. My baby daughter was asleep in a carrycot in a quiet part of the house, and from our first conversation it was clear that Anne was very enthusiastic about babies, both human and murine! We started talking about sex determination during embryonic development, speculating about the recently published hypothesis of Susumo Ono, that the male-specific transplantation antigen, HY, was the trigger for testis determination. We worked together on this question, first typing for HY expression some XXSxr males from the XYSxr breeding stock Anne maintained at the Mammalian Genetics Unit, using an in vitro T cell assay I'd recently developed. Anne has just shown, using an informative cross with mice carrying the T16/X translocation, that the previously mysterious chromosomal location of the sex reversing gene, Sxr, was attached to the pseudoautosomal region of Y and/or X chromosomes, and obligatorilly exchanged between them during male meiosis. We found that sex reversed XXSxr males were positive for HY, a result consistent with Ono's hypothesis. We became fascinated by the possibility that linked genes in this region might become separated from each other during spermatogenesis in carrier males, and that by examining their progeny we might find evidence of this. The two markers then available to us were sex reversal and expression of HY. Anne selected the progeny for testing, coding the mice from which I removed spleen samples so that I did not know their sex. I added more controls, positive and negative, from my H2 congenic mouse stocks at the Clinical Research Centre and in due course Anne and I decoded the whole experiment together, and that was an exciting moment. Especially since in our first experiment we found, amongst the group of Sxr males, a single one that was HY negative. But that had to be confirmed, including typing of the parent from which he had inherited Sxr, and other potentially informative members of that lineage, in particular, XXSxr females transmitting the HY negative Sxr variant, named Sxr' (later Sxrb). The results of this work was a definitive separation of the testis determining gene, Tdy (later identified following gene cloning by Robin Lovell-Badge as Sry) from the gene(s) encoding HY. Anne and I published this work in Nature in 1984, and we went on to screen hundreds more mice for different re-arrangements within Sxr, with more markers. Although we found several, none were quite as exciting as the first. However, the discovery of Sxr' also paved the way for the discovery, within the Sxrb deletion interval, of a group of genes encoding HY epitopes. Following our work identifying HY epitopes from three of these genes, Smcy, Uty and Dby in mice, their homologues in man were also found to encode HY antigens in humans.
Anne and I subsequently worked together to examine a claim for Lamarkian inheritance of transplantation tolerance put forward by a flamboyant Australian who spent more time during his London sabbatical in Fleet Street than the lab. Parallel experiments performed with Anne at her Unit and with Leslie Brent at St Mary's showed that the results interpreted as supporting Lamarkian inheritance could not be repeated, although the author of that claim was less gracious than Susumo Ono (who took me out to lunch when I visited his lab in California) to find his hypothesis disproved, and our results published in two Nature papers.
My friendship with Anne has continued over the years, meeting in the lab, at symposia and site visits, over celebratory dinners (Anne always happy to find any excuse for a party) and during quieter times talking together. I have lost a great friend, and I mourn her.
Massimo De Felici, University of Rome Tor Vergata:
The meeting with Anne signs my personal and scientific life for ever. From that far 1982, my researches have been on those cells which Anne called "the most fascinating cells among all others" the primordial germ cells to which she dedicated the last part of her scientific life coming back to the origin of life which she loved so much. Although working on the same field, we were never competitors, on the contrary I often received from her precious suggestions and continuous encouragements. Hearing about the terrible news of her sudden death, I found a comfort in thinking that her beautiful mind did not know the decadence of age. Her presence will be always into my life and my work.
Frank Kelly, Christ's College:
Anne was an exemplar of how to do and how to be, and in Christ's College she will be very much missed.
S.K. Dey, Vanderbilt University:
I first met Anne McLaren in 1973 when I was a newly arrived postdoctoral fellow in reproductive biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center at Kansas City, Kansas. She was the one who first showed me how to efficiently recover mouse embryos from the oviduct and transfer them back to foster mothers. Since then we have met numerous times socially and in various meetings and have become good friends. My respect for Anne as a scientist and a friend will always remain with me in my remaining journeys and scientific endeavors. The present state of our knowledge in the field is enormously in debt to her remarkable contributions to the field for so many decades. We are all very grateful to Anne for her leadership and contributions in so many aspects. Our thoughts and gratitude are with her in her journey to eternal peace.
Vladimir K. Shumny, President, Vavilov Society of Geneticists and Breeders, Russian Academy of Sciences:
With heartbreaking feelings we got to know about the tragic death of Professor Dame Anne McLaren, an outstanding scientist and a fascinating personality. This is a tremendous and grievous loss.
Please accept our sincere condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, and all those who had the great honor and pleasure to know personally and work together with Professor Dame Anne McLaren.
Sanjeev Khosla, Center for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics [CDFD], Hyderabad, India:
I feel very sad today. One of the most woderful human beings I have ever met in my life. I can never forget her tremendous energy and passion for science in particular and life in general that came across, whenever I met her. It would be difficult to fill the void that she leaves behind.
Miguel Martin, Stem Cell and Mitochondrial Genetics Researcher, IMABIS, Spain:
I had the great honour and pleasure to meet Anne just a single time, few months ago, just before the beginning of my work as an independent researcher in my country. We met at the Gurdon in her office. I was delighted with one of the most intense and exciting scientific conversations I ever have had before. From our meeting, besides of learning and receiving some great advises from her, I had the honour to be included as one more of the infinite number of scientist who has been fortunate to receive her help and her enthusiasm for science. From that meeting we set up the base for a wonderful collaboration joining her tremendous knowledge in embryology and developmental biology and my tiny expertise in mitochondrial genetics. At the end of this summer we were planning to initiate our work together there in the Gurdon Institute. Now, she is not going to be there materially, but she wil be of course present. Thanks to the support and scientific enthusiasm of her postdoc Cristina and having the tremendous honour of receiving the approval, help, and future advises of Professor Surani, we'll be doing true that project soon and we hope to make Anne happy by putting all our effort on this.
Anne, thank you so much for all.
Lalji Singh, Director, Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, India:
It was extremely shocking for all of us at CCMB to hear about the unfortunate and tragic death of Dr Anne McLaren. No doubt it is an unsurmountable loss to the world as a whole but, certainly, to the Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) in India because of her very intimate association with us both emotional as well as productively functional.
Her unstinted commitment and support to the cause of conservation of animals in general and wildlife in particular were incomparable to any such efforts around the world in the sense that they were unique in many ways. The establishment of Frozen Ark, of which LaCONES also is an active partner, will go a long way in preserving the gene pool of very valuable species in future. We had the fortune of her visiting us at least three times but I have no hesitation to say that every visit left a mark of her footstep amongst the minds of our colleagues at CCMB and LaCONES working in the area of conservation of wildlife. It is certainly going to be very difficult not only for us but also for her colleagues in UK and members of her family to absorb this shock. May I, therefore, request you to convey our condolences for her departure from this world to her professional colleagues and family members and wish that the Almighty give all of them enough strength to put up with the tragedy.
Last but not the least, for us she is not dead. She is surviving in the form of Frozen Ark which became a reality because mainly of her efforts, and our common concerns in the areas of conservation.
Leng Siew Yeap, PhD Student, Surani Lab:
I've always been amazed by Anne's passion for science and her knowledge of many other things. She had such great energy and admirable enthusiasm. I will miss her witty comments and cheerful personality at lab meetings.
David Stewart, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory:
Anne was a frequent visitor to Cold Spring Harbor for the summer mouse course, the stem cells course and various meetings - in fact she made it "across the pond" at least once a year to teach or lecture. She inspired generations of developmental biologists through her teaching and quiet authority. We will miss her tremendously.
Jody Rosenblatt, University of Utah:
I am deeply saddened to hear about Anne's death. It seems she left with the same intensity with which she lived her life. I have a very fond rememberance of her as a pioneer in embryology and as an excellent role model for women in science. My heart goes out to all of you who will feel her presence lost daily. May her great spirit live on!
Stephen Sullivan, Harvard University:
What I liked most about Anne was her infectious enthusiasm and wonder, and also her great sense of humour. The pain of her loss is lessened with the knowledge she lived a very full and fun life.
She was a great friend while at the same time being a mentor very easy to admire and be inspired by. The pain one now feels is a testament to the love we continue to have for her.
Jan Witkowski, Banbury Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory:
Anne was a remarkable person. I saw her most often here at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, most recently, just a few weeks ago, for the 25th anniversary of the Mouse Course. Her dedication to educating young scientists through teaching on the Mouse Course was inspiring. She was always enthusiastic, unassuming and a wonderful example to the students of all that is best in being a scientist. It was always a delight to be with her.
Brenda Bradley, Christ's College and Department of Zoology:
Some say for a woman to succeed in science she must be either overly aggressive or overly maternal. Anne, who was neither, showed what it really takes for a woman to succeed in science: being a great scientist. My conversations with Anne were usually about animal conservation. She was a strong advocate for conservation genetics and chaired the scientific committee for the Frozen Ark -- the world's first tissue bank preserving DNA from thousands of species facing extinction.
I’ll miss discussing these things with Anne.
Lewis Wolpert, Dept of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, UCL:
If one needed original advice for any problem , personal or scientific, Anne was the person to go to. She was wonderful.
Nikki Oliver, Receptionist, Gurdon Institute:
So many things to say, and so few words. I will miss our morning banter at the pigeon-holes, her wave as she came in to reception, and her voice as she answered her phone. She never failed to amaze me and I feel very proud to have known her.
Magdalena Koziol, PhD Student, Gurdon Lab:
Anne was a great inspiration. Everyone just adored her for her immense energy, curiosity and her determination. I still remember her when she danced at the institute retreat, she was just fabulous and had more energy and spirit than most of us. It was an honour to know her, she was an inspiration. She will be missed.
Alastair Downie, IT Manager, Gurdon Institute:
I have had the very good fortune to visit Anne's office frequently during my time in the Institute - every time her computer did something unusual, as they often do. Having read Donald's obituary, I wonder if she thought Powerpoint was one of her former husband's less successful experiments in Artificial Intelligence, and an illustration of his mischievous sense of humour? Anyway. We'd invariably get to chatting about the countries she'd given talks in last week, and all the countries she was going to visit next week, and it was very easy to forget that I was talking to someone who was 80 yrs old. A bus-pass holder for the last twenty years! I wish I had half of her energy now, at half her age.
I'd also often distract her from her work by asking dumb questions about biology. "Can a sheep give birth to a mouse?" or "How can a single cell move around if it doesn't have any muscles?" etc etc. At no time however, did she ever make me realise the extent of my ignorance. I think other people have described better than I can her interest and enthusiasm for communicating her work, not only to the scientific community, but to dummies like me too. I feel very lucky to have met Anne, and very sorry that she's no longer with us. I still have loads of dumb questions. I'll miss her.
Tanya Shovlin & Cristina Eguizabal, Post-Doc Researchers, McLaren Lab:
Wow, what a woman! Anne was not just a boss, she was our mentor and our inspiration. We still keep expecting Anne to come around the corner and into the office with all her papers in a plastic bag. She will be sadly missed by us but we will continue her work, she would not like it any other way.
Page updated: 11 May 2011 by ad327
The Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute,