Monday, July 09, 2007

Anne McLaren, 1927-2007

ScienceNOW reports that 80-year-old geneticist Anne McLaren was killed in a car accident on July 7th. Also killed was her ex-husband Donald Michie, with whom she was still close.

Still active in the lab despite her age, McLaren's most recent research focused on mouse primordial germ cells, the embryonic cells that give rise to egg and sperm cells. "She could truly be considered one of the [pioneers] of modern mammalian germ cell genetics," says Renee Reijo Pera, a developmental biologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

McLaren's broad range of research-- including genetics, developmental biology, and reproductive biology--led her to tackle the social and ethical issues surrounding human embryology research. She was a member of the Warnock Committee, which helped shape the U.K.'s landmark 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, and for 10 years served on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which the Act established to regulate the use of human tissue. She believed that full disclosure of the potential risks and benefits associated with medical advances was the best way to gain public acceptance of stem cell and other controversial research.

McLaren was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1975 and was awarded a Royal Medal in 1990. In 2001 she received a L'Oreal Award for women in science, and earlier this year she received the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology.

In a 2001 tribute from her research students published in the International Journal of Developmental Biology, she was lauded as a scientist, teacher and mentor. She sounds like a bit of a superwoman and expected no less from those who worked with her.
As John West writes "I was so impressed that Anne could find time to work at the bench, attend numerous meetings and spend time with her family, that I decided that there must be three of her." She expected us to do the same. Paul Burgoyne recalls "when later I was with Anne at the Medical Development Unit in London, and had by this time acquired three children, she would tell me off if I worked late into the evening and say I shoudl be at home with my family."
Jim Smith, Chairman of the Gurdon Institute at the University Cambridge where McLaren had her lab, also praised both her scientific and personal achievements:
"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.”
Even after 80 years, it was a life cut short.

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mckie said...

telegraph obituary here.

ERV said...

Thats amazing-- Thats a dream, to be 80 and still being active in the lab. The love you have to have for your research, when you could be out fishing :)

Peggy K said...

McKie: Thanks for the obit link.

ERV: I figure that's the sign of a good life - doing what you love at 80.