Dolly the Sheep honoured with plaque

Prof Sir Ian Wilmut and Dr William Ritchie with the plaque. Pic: Malcolm McCurrach
Prof Sir Ian Wilmut and Dr William Ritchie with the plaque. Pic: Malcolm McCurrach
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THE world’s most famous sheep was honoured at her birthplace on Wednesday with a special blue plaque from the Society of Biology.

In a huge step for genetics, Dolly the sheep became the first mammal in history to be cloned from a single adult cell in 1996.

The clone was unveiled to the world in 1997 and 18 years later is being commemorated with a plaque as part of a project to celebrate the unsung heroes of biology in the UK.

A permanent sign has been placed at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, where she was cloned 12 years after her death.

The plaque is one of 10 that are being unveiled across the UK by the Society of Biology in honour of those who have made a significant contribution to biological sciences.

Sir Ian Wilmut, from the University of Edinburgh, who was the lead researcher behind the development of Dolly, said her birth had “revolutionised” scientists’ understanding of development.

He said: “The birth of Dolly, the first clone of an adult animal, revolutionised our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate development.

“We used to believe that once a cell had differentiated to a specific tissue type it could not be changed. The birth of Dolly showed that this is not the case.

“This result stimulated research which is now providing revolutionary opportunities in medicine.”

Dr William Ritchie, from Roslin Embryology Ltd., who worked with Sir Ian, said: “To make the Dolly experiments successful, many people were involved, from lab technicians to the farm staff caring for the animals to the surgeons and anaesthetists whose skills, successfully transferred the embryos.

“All the people who gave their skills, effort and dedication to these experiments are immensely proud of the contributions which they made.”

The new collection of celebratory plaques will also include Dorothy Hodgkin, who deciphered the structure of Penicillin, and Steptoe, Edwards and Purdy who pioneered IVF research which led to the first test tube baby.

They are part of the new national initiative, Biology: Changing the World, which also consists of a new app, website, and teaching resources available to teachers and the public.

Dr Mark Downs FSB, chief executive of the Society of Biology said: “We have a great heritage of scientific discovery and an exciting future, but the biologists who have contributed to our understanding of the world are not always given the appreciation they deserve.

“We are delighted to be giving these biologists the recognition awarded to other great historical figures through Biology: Changing the World.

“The project is also a celebration of biology and biologists today.

“The life sciences will be essential for solving the problems of the 21st Century such as food security and antibiotic resistance.

“By highlighting our great biology heritage we hope to inspire the next generation.”