Ian Wilmut

Born(1944-07-07)7 July 1944
Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire, England
Died10 September 2023(2023-09-10) (aged 79)
Alma mater
Known forDolly the sheep
Scientific career
ThesisThe preservation of boar semen (1971)
Doctoral advisorChristopher Polge

Sir Ian Wilmut OBE FRS FMedSci FRSE[2][1][8] (7 July 1944 – 10 September 2023) was a British embryologist and the chair of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine[9] at the University of Edinburgh.[10] He is best known as the leader of the research group that in 1996 first cloned a mammal from an adult somatic cell, a Finnish Dorset lamb named Dolly.[11][12]

Wilmut was appointed OBE in 1999 for services to embryo development[13] and knighted in the 2008 New Year Honours.[14] He, Keith Campbell and Shinya Yamanaka jointly received the 2008 Shaw Prize for Medicine and Life Sciences for their work on cell differentiation in mammals.[7]

Early life and education

Wilmut was born in Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire, England, on 7 July 1944.[15] Wilmut's father, Leonard Wilmut, was a mathematics teacher who suffered from diabetes for fifty years, which eventually caused him to become blind.[16] The younger Wilmut attended the Boys' High School in Scarborough, where his father taught.[17] His early desire was to embark on a naval career, but he was unable to do so due to his colour blindness.[18] As a schoolboy, Wilmut worked as a farm hand on weekends, which inspired him to study Agriculture at the University of Nottingham.[17][19]

In 1966, Wilmut spent eight weeks working in the laboratory of Christopher Polge, who is credited with developing the technique of cryopreservation in 1949.[20] The following year Wilmut joined Polge's laboratory to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Cambridge, from where he graduated in 1971 with a thesis on semen cryopreservation.[21] During this time he was a postgraduate student at Darwin College.[22]

Career and research

After completing his PhD, he was involved in research focusing on gametes and embryogenesis, including working at the Roslin Institute.[17]

Wilmut was the leader of the research group that in 1996 first cloned a mammal, a lamb named Dolly.[23][24] She died of a respiratory disease in 2003. In 2008 Wilmut announced that he would abandon the technique of somatic cell nuclear transfer[25] by which Dolly was created in favour of an alternative technique developed by Shinya Yamanaka. This method has been used in mice to derive pluripotent stem cells from differentiated adult skin cells, thus circumventing the need to generate embryonic stem cells. Wilmut believed that this method holds greater potential for the treatment of degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease and to treat stroke and heart attack patients.[26]

Dolly was a bonus, sometimes when scientists work hard, they also get lucky, and that's what happened.[27]

Ian Wilmut, quoted in Time

Wilmut led the team that created Dolly, but in 2006 admitted his colleague Keith Campbell[28] deserved "66 per cent" of the invention that made Dolly's birth possible, and that the statement "I did not create Dolly" was accurate.[29] His supervisory role is consistent with the post of principal investigator held by Wilmut at the time of Dolly's creation.

Wilmut was an Emeritus Professor at the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine[30] at the University of Edinburgh and in 2008 was knighted in the New Year Honours for services to science.[18]

Wilmut and Campbell, in conjunction with Colin Tudge, published The Second Creation in 2000.[31][15] In 2006 Wilmut's book After Dolly: The Uses and Misuses of Human Cloning was published,[32] co-authored with Roger Highfield.


Wilmut died from complications of Parkinson's disease on 10 September 2023, aged 79.[33][15]

Awards and honours

In 1998 he received the Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award[34] and the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[35]

Wilmut was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1999 Birthday Honours "for services to Embryo Development"[22][36] and a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2002.[2] He was also an elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1999[1] and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2000.[3] He was elected an EMBO Member in 2003.[5]

In 1997 Wilmut was Time magazine man of the year runner up.[27] He was knighted in the 2008 New Year Honours for services to science.[22][37]



  1. ^ a b c Anon (1999). "Ian Wilmut FMedSci". acdmedsci.ac.uk. London: Academy of Medical Sciences. Archived from the original on 7 October 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Anon (2002). "Sir Ian Wilmut OBE FMedSci FRS". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where: 'All text published under the heading "Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.' --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b "File relating to Ian Wilmut's Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2000–2005". Collections.ed.ac.uk. Retrieved 11 September 2023.
  4. ^ "Ian Wilmut Ernst: Schering Prize 2002". Schering Stiftung. Retrieved 12 September 2023.
  5. ^ a b Anon (2003). "EMBO Profile: Ian Wilmut". people.embo.org. Heidelberg: European Molecular Biology Organization.
  6. ^ "Paul Ehrlich Foundation: Prize Winners: 2005 Wilmut". Goethe-Universität Frankfurt. Retrieved 12 September 2023.
  7. ^ a b "The 2008 Prize in Life Science & Medicine". Shaw Prize Foundation. Archived from the original on 3 October 2022. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  8. ^ "Professor Sir Ian Wilmut FRS FMedSci FRSE | Royal Society". Archived from the original on 20 August 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  9. ^ "Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine". Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  10. ^ "Redirecting Cell Fate, Group leader: Ian Wilmut FRS, FRSE". Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  11. ^ Campbell, K. H. S.; McWhir, J.; Ritchie, W. A.; Wilmut, I. (1996). "Sheep cloned by nuclear transfer from a cultured cell line". Nature. 380 (6569): 64–66. Bibcode:1996Natur.380...64C. doi:10.1038/380064a0. PMID 8598906. S2CID 3529638.
  12. ^ Schnieke, A. E.; Kind, A. J.; Ritchie, W. A.; Mycock, K.; Scott, A. R.; Ritchie, M.; Wilmut, I.; Colman, A.; Campbell, K. H. (1997). "Human Factor IX Transgenic Sheep Produced by Transfer of Nuclei from Transfected Fetal Fibroblasts". Science. 278 (5346): 2130–2133. Bibcode:1997Sci...278.2130S. doi:10.1126/science.278.5346.2130. PMID 9405350. S2CID 36257561.
  13. ^ "Times Higher Education: Queen's Birthday Honours". Times Higher Education. 18 June 1999. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  14. ^ "Dolly creator heads Scots honours". BBC News. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  15. ^ a b c "Sir Ian Wilmut obituary". The Guardian. 11 September 2023. Retrieved 11 September 2023.
  16. ^ a b c "Autobiography of Sir Ian Wilmut". The Shaw Prize. 2008. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  17. ^ a b "Dolly the sheep creator knighted". BBC. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  18. ^ "Ian Wilmut Interview: Pioneer of Cloning". Academy of Achievement. 23 May 1998. Archived from the original on 23 March 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  19. ^ Rall, W. (2007). "Ernest John Christopher Polge FRS (1926–2006)". Cryobiology. 54 (3): 241–242. doi:10.1016/j.cryobiol.2007.04.001.
  20. ^ Wilmut, Ian (1971). The preservation of boar semen (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 500590369.
  21. ^ a b c "WILMUT, Sir Ian". Who's Who. Vol. 1999 (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)[unreliable source?]
  22. ^ "The Third Culture: Ian Wilmut". Edge.org. Archived from the original on 13 January 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  23. ^ Giles, J.; Knight, J. (2003). "Dolly's death leaves researchers woolly on clone ageing issue". Nature. 421 (6925): 776. Bibcode:2003Natur.421..776G. doi:10.1038/421776a. PMID 12594470.
  24. ^ Wilmut, I.; Beaujean, N.; De Sousa, P. A.; Dinnyes, A.; King, T. J.; Paterson, L. A.; Wells, D. N.; Young, L. E. (2002). "Somatic cell nuclear transfer" (PDF). Nature. 419 (6709): 583–586. Bibcode:2002Natur.419..583W. doi:10.1038/nature01079. PMID 12374931. S2CID 4327096.
  25. ^ Highfield, Roger (16 November 2007). "Dolly creator Prof Ian Wilmut shuns cloning". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 2 December 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2007.
  26. ^ a b Nash, Madeleine (29 December 1997). "Dr Ian Wilmut...and Dolly". Time. Archived from the original on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  27. ^ Wilmut, I. (2012). "Keith Campbell (1954–2012)". Science. 338 (6114): 1553. Bibcode:2012Sci...338.1553W. doi:10.1126/science.1233495. PMID 23258883. S2CID 206547014.
  28. ^ Cramb, Auslan (8 March 2006). "I didn't clone Dolly the sheep says prof". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  29. ^ "MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine".
  30. ^ The Second Creation: Dolly and the age of biological control ISBN 0674005864
  31. ^ After Dolly: The Uses and Misuses of Human Cloning ISBN 0316724696
  32. ^ Williams, Craig (11 September 2023). "Professor Sir Ian Wilmut: Dolly the sheep creator dies aged 79". The Herald. Retrieved 11 September 2023.
  33. ^ "Foundation News" (PDF). Technology Innovation and Society (Winter 1998): 14. 1998.
  34. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  35. ^ "No. 55513". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 1999. p. 14.
  36. ^ "No. 58557". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 2007.