Biography of Ian Wilmut

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  • Topic: Cloning, Ian Wilmut, Roslin Institute
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  • Published : December 4, 2011
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The Life and Accomplishments of Ian Wilmut|
Dr. Ian Wilmut with the year-old Dolly in 1997. Dolly was the first animal to be cloned from DNA taken from an adult animal. © Najlah Feanny/CORBIS SABA| James Ray|
Shepherd University|


Ian Wilmut is an embryologist from England that is arguably the most controversial researcher in recent history. He is considered to be the pioneer of cloning. He and his colleagues successfully cloned a lamb they named Dolly. He received many awards for his controversial work while enduring great backlash for the ethical implications of his accomplishments. Ian Wilmut was born July 7, 1944 in Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire, England (American Academy of Achievement, 2005). His father was Leonard Wilmut, a mathematics teacher at the Boys’ High School in Scarborough were Ian would later attend. His father was also a long time diabetes sufferer that eventually lost his sight to the disease (Lovetoknow Corp, 2008). It is thought that this experience may have been the early foundation for Ian Wilmut’s interest in scientific research. As a child, Ian Wilmut was raised in the town of Coventry (American Academy of Achievement, 2005). Early in his life Wilmut was interested in agriculture and farming spending much of his time in the outdoors and working as a farm hand (Wilmut, Creating the Genetic Replica, 1998). Wilmut once dreamed of a naval career, but those dreams were short lived due to his color blindness (Wilmut, Creating the Genetic Replica, 1998). As a young adult Ian Wilmut attended the University of Nottingham to pursue a degree in Agriculture. He felt he did not have the business sense to be successful in commercial farming so Wilmut focused his attention on agricultural research. While completing his undergraduate work at the University of Nottingham, Wilmut was exposed to the field of embryology by his mentor G. Eric Lamming. Lamming was a renowned expert in reproduction and after introducing Wilmut to his field, Wilmut knew that genetic engineering of animals was his quest in life. After graduation from the University of Nottingham, Wilmut attended the Darwin College at the University of Cambridge. In 1966 Wilmut spent 8 weeks working with Christopher Polge in his laboratory (Wilmut, Creating the Genetic Replica, 1998). Polge is credited with developing the technique of cryopreservation in 1949 (Rall, 2007). Wilmut was fascinated by Polge’s work and joined his laboratory in pursuit of a research PhD. His doctoral dissertation dealt with the freezing of boar semen and embryos. Based on this research, Wilmut was able to successfully produce the first calf born from a frozen embryo, a Hereford-Friesian named Frostie (Wilmut, Campbell, & Tudge, The Second Creation: Dolly and the Age of Biological Control, 2000). This scientific advance allowed cattle breeders to increase the quality of their herd by implanting the embryos of the cows that produced the best meat and milk into cows of inferior quality. Wilmut graduated with his PhD in 1973 and took a research job with the Animal Breeding Research Station in Scotland. The research station was both privately and government funded and soon became known as the Roslin Institute in Roslin, Scotland (Wilmut, Campbell, & Tudge, The Second Creation: Dolly and the Age of Biological Control, 2000). It is widely believed that Wilmut began his research in embryology after over hearing a conversation about Dr. Steen Willadsen, an embryologist that had used a cell from an embryo already in development to clone a sheep. Wilmut began applying Dr. Willesden’s research findings to his own research at the Roslin Institute. In 1991, animal activists heard about Wilmut’s research and burned down his laboratory. However, Wilmut was undeterred and secured funding from Pharmaceutical Proteins, LTD Therapeutics to continue his research. The greatest and most controversial part of Wilmut’s career began in 1996....
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