Dame Anne McLaren died in a car accident while driving from Cambridge to London. She was one of Britain’s leading researchers in mammalian reproductive and developmental biology and genetics.
Anne Mclaren’s research on the basic science underpinning infertility treatment helps in the development of various human-assisted reproductive procedures. Her studies have contributed to a greater understanding of the relevance of stem cells in the treatment of human disease. She was the first woman to serve as vice president and foreign secretary of the Royal Society, which dates back more than 300 years.
Anne McLaren, 2nd Baron Aberconway, was the daughter of Henry McLaren and Christabel McNaughten. She lived in London and Bodnant, north Wales, and studied zoology at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. During her postgraduate studies at Oxford, she collaborated with JBS Haldane, Peter Medawar, and Kingsley Sanders, earning her DPhil in 1952.
Her thesis topic was murine neurotropic viruses, which she studied under Sanders, and she married Donald Michie the same year she received her doctorate. They later collaborated at University College London (1952–55) and the Royal Veterinary College in London (1955–59).
She worked on embryo transfer and implantation. They demonstrated that it was possible to culture mouse embryos in a test tube and obtain live young after placing them in a surrogate mother’s uterus. Anne and Donald divorced in 1959, yet they both went to Edinburgh. At the Institute of Animal Genetics, Anne continued her research on mammalian fertility, embryo transfer procedures, and immunocontraception. And also the mixing of early embryos to generate chimeras (organisms made up of two or more genetically different types of tissue).
She was appointed director of the Medical Research Council’s mammalian development unit in 1974 at the University of London. Her lifelong interest in the genesis and differentiation of mammalian primordial germ cells began there. In 1980, she published a great book on germ cells and Soma. After retiring from the Medical Research Council in 1992, she became the principal research associate at the Welcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, a position she held at the time of her death. Throughout her career, she published almost 300 papers.
Many of the fields in which Anne worked have crucial ethical implications. Her membership on the Warnock Committee, which produced a white paper that was instrumental in the adoption of the 1987 Family Law Reform Act, was one of her most significant accomplishments.
She received numerous honors. In 1975, she was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1986, a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; and in 1993, she was awarded the DBE.
She was also president of the Society for the Study of Fertility, the Society of Developmental Biology, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1993–94, and a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, from 1992–96.
Anne was a member of the European group on ethics. She got the Zoological Society of London’s Scientific Medal (1967). The International Fertility Society’s Pioneer Award (1988, alongside Donald Michie), and the Royal Society’s Royal Medal (1990).