John Gurdon

Sir John Bertrand Gurdon FRS FMedSci MAE (born 2 October 1933), is an English developmental biologist. He is best known for his pioneering research in nuclear transplantation[2][3][4] and cloning.[1][5][6][7] He was awarded the Lasker Award in 2009. In 2012, he and Shinya Yamanaka were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that mature cells can be converted to stem cells.[8]

Sir John Gurdon

John Gurdon Cambridge 2012
Gurdon in 2012
John Bertrand Gurdon

2 October 1933 (age 85)
Dippenhall, Surrey, England
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
Known forNuclear transfer, cloning
AwardsWilliam Bate Hardy Prize (1984)
Royal Medal (1985)
International Prize for Biology (1987)
Wolf Prize in Medicine (1989)
Edwin Grant Conklin Medal (2001)
Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (2009)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2012)
Scientific career
FieldsBiology and Developmental Biology
InstitutionsUniversity of Oxford
University of Cambridge
California Institute of Technology
ThesisNuclear transplantation in Xenopus (1960)
Doctoral advisorMichael Fischberg[1]
Doctoral studentsDouglas A. Melton

Early days

Gurdon attended Edgeborough and then Eton College, where he ranked last out of the 250 boys in his year group at biology, and was in the bottom set in every other science subject. A schoolmaster wrote a report stating "I believe he has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous."[9][10][11] Gurdon explains it is the only document he ever framed; Gurdon also told a reporter "When you have problems like an experiment doesn't work, which often happens, it's nice to remind yourself that perhaps after all you are not so good at this job and the schoolmaster may have been right."[12]

Gurdon went to Christ Church, Oxford, to study classics but switched to zoology. For his DPhil degree he studied nuclear transplantation in a frog species of the genus Xenopus[13][14] with Michael Fischberg at Oxford. Following postdoctoral work at Caltech,[15] he returned to England and his early posts were at the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford (1962–71).

Gurdon has spent much of his research career at the University of Cambridge, first at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (1971–83) and then at the Department of Zoology (1983–present). In 1989, he was a founding member of the Wellcome/CRC Institute for Cell Biology and Cancer (later Wellcome/CR UK) in Cambridge, and was its Chair until 2001. He was a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics 1991–1995, and Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, from 1995 to 2002.


A video from an open-access article co-authored by Gurdon:[16] Animal view of different embryos developing in Xenopus laevis eggs: a diploid laevis x laevis is shown on the top, cleaving and entering gastrulation about 50 min earlier than haploid [laevis] x laevis (middle) and [laevis] x tropicalis cybrid (bottom) embryos.

Nuclear transfer

In 1958, Gurdon, then at the University of Oxford, successfully cloned a frog using intact nuclei from the somatic cells of a Xenopus tadpole.[17][18] This work was an important extension of work of Briggs and King in 1952 on transplanting nuclei from embryonic blastula cells[19] and the successful induction of polyploidy in the stickleback, Gasterosteus aculatus, in 1956 by Har Swarup reported in Nature.[20] At that time he could not conclusively show that the transplanted nuclei derived from a fully differentiated cell. This was finally shown in 1975 by a group working at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Switzerland.[21] They transplanted a nucleus from an antibody-producing lymphocyte (proof that it was fully differentiated) into an enucleated egg and obtained living tadpoles.

Gurdon’s experiments captured the attention of the scientific community and the tools and techniques he developed for nuclear transfer are still used today. The term clone[22] (from the ancient Greek word κλών (klōn, “twig”)) had already been in use since the beginning of the 20th century in reference to plants. In 1963 the British biologist J. B. S. Haldane, in describing Gurdon’s results, became one of the first to use the word "clone" in reference to animals.

Messenger RNA expression

Gurdon and colleagues also pioneered the use of Xenopus (genus of highly aquatic frog) eggs and oocytes to translate microinjected messenger RNA molecules,[23] a technique which has been widely used to identify the proteins encoded and to study their function.

Recent research

Gurdon's recent research has focused on analysing intercellular signalling factors involved in cell differentiation, and on elucidating the mechanisms involved in reprogramming the nucleus in transplantation experiments, including the role of histone variants,[24][25] and demethylation of the transplanted DNA.[26]

Politics and religion

Gurdon has stated that he is politically "middle of the road", and religiously agnostic because "there is no scientific proof either way". During his tenure as Master of Magdalene College, Gurdon created some controversy when he suggested that fellows should occasionally be allowed to deliver "an address on anything they would like to talk about" in college chapel services.[27] In an interview with, Gurdon reports that "I'm what you might call liberal minded. I'm not a Roman Catholic. I'm a Christian, of the Church of England." [28]

Honours and awards

Gurdon was made a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1971, and was knighted in 1995. In 2004, the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Institute for Cell Biology and Cancer was renamed the Gurdon Institute[29] in his honour. He has also received numerous awards, medals and honorary degrees.[15] In 2005, he was elected as an Honorary Member of the American Association of Anatomists. He was awarded the 2009 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research award and in 2014 delivered the Harveian Oration at the Royal College of Physicians.[30]

Nobel Prize

In 2012 Gurdon was awarded, jointly with Shinya Yamanaka, the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine "for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent".[31] His Nobel Lecture was called "The Egg and the Nucleus: A Battle for Supremacy".


  1. ^ a b Williams, R. (2008). "Sir John Gurdon: Godfather of cloning". The Journal of Cell Biology. 181 (2): 178–179. doi:10.1083/jcb.1812pi. PMC 2315664. PMID 18426972.
  2. ^ Gurdon, J. B.; Byrne, J. A. (2003). "The first half-century of nuclear transplantation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 100 (14): 8048–8052. doi:10.1073/pnas.1337135100. PMC 166179.
  3. ^ Gurdon, J. B. (2006). "From Nuclear Transfer to Nuclear Reprogramming: The Reversal of Cell Differentiation". Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology. 22: 1–22. doi:10.1146/annurev.cellbio.22.090805.140144. PMID 16704337.
  4. ^ Gurdon, J. B.; Melton, D. A. (2008). "Nuclear Reprogramming in Cells". Science. 322 (5909): 1811–1815. doi:10.1126/science.1160810. PMID 19095934.
  5. ^ Kain, K. (2009). "The birth of cloning: An interview with John Gurdon". Disease Models and Mechanisms. 2 (1–2): 9–10. doi:10.1242/dmm.002014. PMC 2615171. PMID 19132124.
  6. ^ Gurdon, J. (2003). "John Gurdon". Current Biology. 13 (19): R759–R760. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2003.09.015. PMID 14521852.
  7. ^ Gurdon, J. (2000). "Not a total waste of time. An interview with John Gurdon. Interview by James C Smith". The International Journal of Developmental Biology. 44 (1): 93–99. PMID 10761853.
  8. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – 2012 Press Release". Nobel Media AB. 8 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Sir John B. Gurdon - Biographical". Retrieved 2017-06-03.
  10. ^ Gurdon Institute (2016-08-25), Gurdon Institute | John Gurdon's 'Journey of a lifetime' lecture, March 2016, retrieved 2017-06-03
  11. ^ "None of us should ever be written off". Western Gazette. 18 October 2012.
  12. ^ Collins, Nick (8 October 2012). "Sir John Gurdon, Nobel Prize winner, was 'too stupid' for science at school". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  13. ^ Nuclear transplantation in Xenopus (Thesis). Thesis DPhil--University of Oxford. 1960.
  14. ^ Gurdon, John (1961). Studies on nucleocytoplasmic relationships during differentiation in vertebrates (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford.(subscription required)
  15. ^ a b Rodney Porter Lectures: Biography
  16. ^ Narbonne, P.; Simpson, D. E.; Gurdon, J. B. (2011). Misteli, Tom, ed. "Deficient Induction Response in a Xenopus Nucleocytoplasmic Hybrid". PLoS Biology. 9 (11): e1001197. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001197. PMC 3217020. PMID 22131902.
  17. ^ Gurdon, J. B.; Elsdale, T. R.; Fischberg, M. (1958). "Sexually Mature Individuals of Xenopus laevis from the Transplantation of Single Somatic Nuclei". Nature. 182 (4627): 64–65. doi:10.1038/182064a0. PMID 13566187.
  18. ^ Gurdon, J. B. (1962). "The developmental capacity of nuclei taken from intestinal epithelium cells of feeding tadpoles". Journal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology. 10: 622–640. PMID 13951335.
  19. ^ Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King (May 1952). "Transplantation of Living Nuclei From Blastula Cells into Enucleated Frogs' Eggs". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 38 (5): 455–463. doi:10.1073/pnas.38.5.455. PMC 1063586. PMID 16589125.
  20. ^ Swarup H. Production of heteroploidy in the three-spined stickle back (Gasterosteus aculeatus L) Nature in 1956;178:1124–1125. doi: 10.1038/1781124a0;
  21. ^ Wabl, M. R.; Brun, R. B.; Du Pasquier, L. (1975). "Lymphocytes of the toad Xenopus laevis have the gene set for promoting tadpole development". Science. 190 (4221): 1310–1312. doi:10.1126/science.1198115. PMID 1198115.
  22. ^ Gurdon, J. B.; Colman, A. (1999). "The future of cloning". Nature. 402 (6763): 743–746. doi:10.1038/45429. PMID 10617195.
  23. ^ Gurdon, J. B.; Lane, C. D.; Woodland, H. R.; Marbaix, G. (1971). "Use of Frog Eggs and Oocytes for the Study of Messenger RNA and its Translation in Living Cells". Nature. 233 (5316): 177–182. doi:10.1038/233177a0. PMID 4939175.
  24. ^ Jullien, J.; Astrand, C.; Halley-Stott, R. P.; Garrett, N.; Gurdon, J. B. (2010). "Characterization of somatic cell nuclear reprogramming by oocytes in which a linker histone is required for pluripotency gene reactivation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107 (12): 5483–5488. doi:10.1073/pnas.1000599107. PMC 2851752. PMID 20212135.
  25. ^ Pasque, V.; Gillich, A.; Garrett, N.; Gurdon, J. B. (2011). "Histone variant macroH2A confers resistance to nuclear reprogramming". The EMBO Journal. 30 (12): 2373–2387. doi:10.1038/emboj.2011.144. PMC 3116279. PMID 21552206.
  26. ^ Simonsson, S.; Gurdon, J. (2004). "DNA demethylation is necessary for the epigenetic reprogramming of somatic cell nuclei". Nature Cell Biology. 6 (10): 984–990. doi:10.1038/ncb1176. PMID 15448701.
  27. ^ Johnny Michael (11 October 2012). "John Gurdon on ethics, politics, religion, and anti-theism". Archived from the original on 28 March 2013.
  28. ^ Ann Schneible (2013-12-04). "Nobel Prize Winner Participates at Vatican Conference".
  29. ^ "The Gurdon Institute". Retrieved 2011-07-26.
  30. ^ "2014 - Event listing from April onwards". Royal College of Physicians. Archived from the original on 7 June 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  31. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012". 8 October 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir David Chilton Phillips
Fullerian Professor of Physiology
Succeeded by
Dame Anne McLaren
Preceded by
Sir David Calcutt
Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Duncan Robinson
1870 Colchester by-election

The Colchester by-election of 1870 was held on 3 November 1870. The byelection was fought due to the death of the incumbent Liberal MP, John Gurdon Rebow.

The Liberal candidate was Sir Henry Storks, a strong supporter of the controversial Contagious Diseases Acts which provided for compulsory inspection and medical treatment of prostitutes in garrison towns, including Colchester. Opponents of the legislation, including Josephine Butler, supported a rival Liberal Baxter Langley, and used the election in their campaign for repeal. Langley withdrew on election day and the Conservative candidate Alexander Learmonth of Edinburgh, gained the seat convincingly. The gain was retained at the subsequent general election.

1958 in science

The year 1958 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research

The Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research is one of the prizes awarded by the Lasker Foundation for the outstanding discovery, Contribution and achievement in the field of medicine and Human Physiology. The award frequently precedes a Nobel Prize in Medicine: almost 50% of the winners have gone on to win one.

Beit Memorial Fellowships for Medical Research

The Beit Memorial Medical Fellowships were one of the most prestigious and competitive fellowships for post-doctoral or medical degree research in medicine in the United Kingdom. The Fellowships were founded in 1909 by Sir Otto Beit, a German-born British financier, philanthropist and art connoisseur, in memory of his brother Alfred Beit.

Beit Memorial Fellows have been awarded a number of prestigious prizes with seven Nobel Prizes including two for Frederick Sanger (1944) and the 2012 prize for medicine for John Gurdon. Nobel laureates who have held Beit fellowships are Alexander R. Todd (chemistry, 1957), Fred Sanger (chemistry, 1958 and 1980), Macfarlane Burnet (physiology or medicine, 1960), Bernard Katz (physiology or medicine, 1970) and Tim Hunt (physiology or medicine, 2001). The first female member of the Royal Society in 1945 was Marjory Stephenson (1914 Beit fellowship) an early recipient of the fellowship.

The Beit Memorial Medical Fellowships were replaced by the prestigious Wellcome-Beit Prize Fellowships in 2009.

Colchester (UK Parliament constituency)

Colchester is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2015 by Will Quince, a Conservative.

Duncan Robinson

David Duncan Robinson, (born 27 June 1943) is a British art historian and academic. He was the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, 2002–2012. He was also the chairman of the Henry Moore Foundation and, until 2007, the director of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Edward Karslake

Edward Kent Karslake (1820 – 31 May 1892) was a British Conservative Party politician.

Karslake was elected MP for Colchester at a by-election in 1867 but lost the seat at the next election in 1868.

Francis Bacon (Ipswich MP)

Francis Bacon (30 September 1600 – c. September 1663) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1645 and 1660. He supported the Parliamentary cause in the English Civil War.

Gurdon Institute

The Gurdon Institute (officially the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute) is a research facility at the University of Cambridge, specialising in developmental biology and cancer biology. The Institute was founded in 1989 to provide a rich, collaborative environment for scientists working in diverse but complementary specialities in the fields of developmental biology and cancer biology. It receives its primary funding from the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK.In 2004 it was renamed in honour of John Gurdon, joint winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for medicine. As of 2019 the director is Julie Ahringer and the deputy director is Eric Miska.

John Gurdon (MP)

John Gurdon (3 July 1595 – 9 September 1679) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons variously between 1640 and 1660. He supported the parliamentary cause in the English Civil War.

Gurdon was the son of a country gentleman, Brampton Gurdon, with estates at Letton Norfolk and Assington, Suffolk. He was elected to the Short Parliament and Long Parliament in 1640 as Member for Ipswich, He supported the Parliamentarian cause in the Civil War and in the internal dissension between the parliamentarians he supported the Army party. He remained in the House of Commons after Pride's Purge, but when named one of the Commissioners for the trial of the King he refused to attend. Nevertheless, he was chosen a member of the council of State in 1650, 1651 and 1652. After the expulsion of the Long Parliament, he sat for Suffolk in the First Protectorate Parliament (1654) and for Sudbury in the Convention Parliament of 1660. He was not re-elected after the Restoration.Gurdon married Anne Parker, daughter of Sir Calthorpe Parker of Erwarton. His children included Philip Gurdon (c. 1630–1690), who was also MP for Sudbury, and the Reverend Nathaniel Gurdon, DD (died 1696), Rector of Chelmsford, who survived his brother and inherited Assington on his death.

There is a memorial to John Gurdon in the church of St Edmund in Assington.

John Gurdon (died 1623)

John Gurdon (c. 1544 – 21 September 1623) was an English landowner and politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1571.

Gurdon was the son of Robert Gurdon of Assington, Suffolk and his wife Rose Sexton, daughter of Robert Sexton of Lavenham, Suffolk and widow of William Appleton of Little Waldingfield. He was a student of Inner Temple in 1558.In 1571, Gurdon was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Sudbury. He succeeded to Assington on the death of his father in 1578 and was a J.P. for Suffolk from about 1579. In 1585 he was Sheriff of Suffolk.Gurdon died at the age of about 78 in 1623.Gurdon married Amy Brampton, daughter of William Brampton of Letton, Norfolk through whom he acquired the estate of Letton. They had a daughter and a son Brampton who also became MP for Sudbury.

John Gurdon Rebow

John Gurdon Rebow (1799 - October 1870) was an English Liberal Party politician who sat in the House of Commons in two periods between 1857 and 1870.

Rebow was born as "Gurdon" the son of Theophilus Thornhaugh Gurdon of Letton, Norfolk and his wife Anne Mellish, daughter of William Mellish MP. He was educated at Eton College. On his marriage in 1835 he adopted the additional name of Rebow. He was a Deputy Lieutenant and J.P for Essex.At the 1847 general election, Rebow stood unsuccessfully for parliament at North Essex. He was High Sheriff of Essex in 1853 and was also High Steward of Colchester. In February 1857 he was elected at a by-election as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Colchester. He was re-elected at the general election in March 1857 but was defeated at the 1859 general election. At the 1865 general election he was re-elected for Colchester, and held until his death in 1870.Rebow died at the age of 71.

Rebow married firstly in 1835 Mary Ormsby, daughter of General Slater Rebow of Wivenhoe Park, and widow of Sir Thomas Ormsby, 3rd Baronet. He married secondly in 1845 Lady Georgina Graham-Toler, daughter of the 2nd Hector John Graham-Toler, 2nd Earl of Norbury.

List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1971

Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1971.

Ron Laskey

Ronald Alfred Laskey CBE FRS (born 26 January 1945) is a British cell biologist and cancer researcher. He was the Charles Darwin Professor of Embryology at the University of Cambridge. In 1991, he co-founded the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research Campaign Institute (now known as the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute), along with five other senior scientists including Professor Sir John Gurdon. In 2001, he founded the Medical Research Council Cancer Cell Unit in 2001, and was Director of the Unit until 2010. Laskey is also a Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge.

Taverner John Miller

Taverner John Miller (1804 – 27 March 1867) was an English businessman and Conservative Party politician. He was the owner of a whaling business based in Westminster, London and held a seat in the House of Commons from 1852 to 1853, and from 1857 to 1867.

William Brewer (MP)

William Brewer (1811 – 3 November 1881) was a British Liberal Party politician.

Brewer first stood for election at Colchester at a by-election in 1867 but was successful. He was then elected MP for the seat in 1868 but lost the seat at the next election in 1874.From 18 January 1878 to his death, Brewer was also a member of the Metropolitan Board of Works for the Vestry of St George Hanover Square.

William Warwick Hawkins

William Warwick Hawkins (1816 – 8 February 1868) was a British Conservative politician.

Hawkins was elected Conservative MP for Colchester at the 1852 general election and held the seat until 1857 when he did not seek re-election.

Wivenhoe House

Wivenhoe House is a grade II-listed house located in Colchester, Essex. It is in use as a 4-star hotel.

Copley Medallists (2001–present)
Laureates of the Wolf Prize in Medicine
2012 Nobel Prize laureates
Physiology or Medicine
Economic Sciences

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