The present Doodle celebrates the 94th birthday of British scientist and author Anne McLaren, who is broadly considered one of the most significant reproductive biologists of the 20th century. Her fundamental research on embryology has assisted countless individuals with understanding their dreams of parenthood.
Anne McLaren was born in London on this day in 1927. As a kid, she had a little job in the 1936 H.G. Wells’ sci-fi film “The Shape of Things to Come.” In the scene—set in 2054—her great-grandfather lectured her on the advancement of space technology that had put mice on the moon.
McLaren credits this formative, albeit fictional, history lesson as one of the early motivations for her love for science. She proceeded to study zoology at the University of Oxford, where her passion for science just developed as she gained from talented biologists, for example, Peter Medawar—a Nobel laureate for his research on the human immune system.
During the 1950s, McLaren started to work with mice to additionally comprehend the biology of mammalian development. While the subjects of her research were tiny, the implications of their study proved massive. By effectively developing mouse embryos in vitro (in lab equipment), McLaren and her colleague John Biggers demonstrated the likelihood to make healthy embryos outside of the mother’s womb.
These landmark findings—published in 1958—paved ready for the development of in vitro fertilization (IVF) technology that researchers previously utilized effectively with people twenty years after the fact. Be that as it may, the development of IVF technology conveyed major moral ethical controversy along with it. To this end, McLaren served as the only research scientist on the Warnock Committee (est. 1982), an governmental body dedicated to the development of policies identified with the advances in IVF technology and embryology.
Her expert council to the committee played an essential role in the enactment of the 1990 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act—watershed, yet contentious, legislation which restricts in-vitro culture of human embryos to 14-days post embryo creation.
In 1991, McLaren was selected Foreign Secretary, and later vice-president, of the world’s oldest scientific institution—The Royal Society—at the time becoming the first woman to at any point hold office inside the institution’s 330-year-old history.
McLaren found her her passion for learning at a young age and aspired to spark this same enthusiasm for science in children and society at large. In 1994, the British Association for the Advancement of Science—an institution dedicated to the promotion of science to the general public (presently the British Science Association)— chose her as its leader. Through the association and its events, McLaren engaged audiences across Britain on the wonders of science, engineering, and technology with the aim of making these topics more accessible to everyone.
Happy birthday, Anne McLaren. Thank you for all your incredible work and for motivating numerous new generations to come because of it!