This was announced in the last few hours by family, friends and colleagues of the British teacher who continued to work in Edinburgh. Ian Wilmut was taken away by complications from Parkinson’s from which he had been suffering for some time. Scientist, embryologist to be precise, Wilmut is best remembered for being the head of the cloning project for Dolly, the first mammal born with this system.
It was 1996 when Dolly came into the world. The research conducted by the Roslin Institute, where Ian Wilmut worked, had been a success. The news came released into the public domain only the following year, in 1997. Public opinion was divided between those who defended scientific progress and those who felt human nature was threatened.
Dolly was born thanks to the use of somatic cells from an adult specimen, breast cells to be precise. The name, however, was a tribute to country singer Dolly Parton. After a delicate process, the embryo was implanted in a uterus and after the gestation period the specimen was born. A process that, in some way, must have ended up influencing a certain Japanese gentleman who was busy writing a video game at the time. Dolly lived healthy for about 7 years. She died in 2023.
Wilmut “transformed the scientific thinking of his time. That achievement still continues to fuel many of the advances being made in regenerative medicine today,” notes vice-chancellor Sir Peter Mathieson on the university website. Already at the time of the publication of the research results, the University of Edinburgh defined Wilmut as “a Titan of science”. The results obtained by his research team – it was already understood then – are part of scientific history.