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. 2014 Jul;88(1):3-8.
doi: 10.1016/j.diff.2013.12.004. Epub 2014 Nov 20.

Lessons From a Great Developmental Biologist

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Lessons From a Great Developmental Biologist

Edward M De Robertis. Differentiation. .
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Abstract

The announcement that Sir John Gurdon had been awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology was received with great joy by developmental biologists. It was a very special occasion because of his total dedication to science and turning the Golden Rule of western civilization - love your neighbor as yourself - into a reality in our field. This essay attempts to explain how John became such a great scientific benefactor, and to review some of his discoveries that are less well known than the nuclear transplantation experiments. A few personal anecdotes are also included to illustrate the profound goodness of this unique man of science.

Keywords: JB Gurdon; Nuclear reprogramming; Nuclear transplantation; Xenopus.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
The Gurdon group at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, circa 1980. Top row: Doug Melton (graduate student), Marvin Wickens (postdoc), William Earnshaw (Laskey’s postdoc), Eddy De Robertis, Ruth Longthorne (Eddy’s technician), Richard Harland (Laskey’s graduate student), Kazuko Nishikura (Eddy’s first postdoc), Laurence Korn (postdoc), Stewart Weisbrod (postdoc), John Gurdon (at age 46) and Julian Wells (sabbatical visitor from Australia). Lower row: Sue Whytock (John’s technician), two young ladies, Barbara Rodbard (John’s excellent secretary) and Jeff Partington (postdoc). Long-time colleague Ron Laskey is missing from this photo. Note that John was the most handsome gentleman, and kept only a small group working directly with him.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Sir John Gurdon with the author and some of his F2 from the De Robertis lab. The occasion was a symposium at EMBL to celebrate my 60th birthday in 2007. This is only part of the scientific progeny through just a single one of John Gurdon’s many trainees, and serves to illustrate the enormous influence Sir John has had on developmental biology. The lineage of most workers in the Xenopus development field can be traced back to him. From left to right: Thomas Bürglin, Edgar Pera, Abraham Fainsod, Christof Niehrs, Zétó Belo, Luc Leyns, Iain Mattaj, Sandra Piccolo, Ana De Robertis, Stefano Piccolo, Ghislaine Agius, Yoshiki Sasai, Eddy De Robertis, Rolf Zeller, Sir John Gurdon, Chris Wright, Hiroki Kuroda, Eric Agius, Martin Blum, Herbert Steinbeisser, Michael Oelgeschläger and Juan Larraín.
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Letter of acceptance to Gurdon’s lab. Note that he remembered the little known Borgward car. John loves automobiles. For some years his first vehicle was a bicycle and the other one a Lotus sports car.
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
The Gurdon party in Stockholm before the Nobel Banquet, December 2012. From left to right: Ann Laskey, Ron Laskey, Laurence Korn, Aurea Connolly (John’s daughter), Lady Jean Gurdon, Sir John Gurdon, Catherine Thompson (John’s sister), Alan Colman, Ann Clarke, Marvin Wickens, Valerie Moar, Douglas Melton, Edward De Robertis, Serena Connelly, Oliver Connelly and Edward Connelly.

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