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Gordon John.

posted Jun 8, 2015, 12:57 PM by Upali Salpadoru   [ updated Jul 14, 2019, 2:05 PM ]
posted 28 Nov 2014, 03:51 by Chalaka Salpadoru   

Sir.John Gordon 1933

Date of Birth:- October 2nd.

 Born with a silver spoon              in the mouth, considered as          stupid by the teachers,          Gordon proved that every cell        in our body has all our genes. 

The discovery was highly honoured by the Swedish Academy of Science.


  His father was William Gordon, a descendant of an ancestral family from Suffolk, with the family motto "virtus viget in arduis" [virtue flourishes in adversity]. His mother Marjorie Byass, from an East Yorkshire farming family.


1938  Age 5 Yrs.

He was admitted to the Primary school Edge borough, .

1939  Age 6 Yrs.

The World war II started.

1941 Age 8 Yrs.

  He was sent to a private school, Frensham Heights. One teacher conducting an IQ test ordered him to draw an orange, expecting a circle. He started drawing a vertical line. The teacher got very angry and tore up the paper and reported that the child was below average and would need special teaching.  When the parents asked the child, why he drew a line , John said. ” That’s the stalk. How can an orange be in space”.

1942  Age 9Yrs.

He was moved to another school Edge borough, where he was quite at home. He took a keen interest in the environment especially plants and animals. His main hobby was to collect caterpillars and develop them into moths and butterflies.


1946  Age 13Yrs.

He became a boarder at the prestigious Eton College. There he had a tiresome time due to the bossy nature of the senior students. As an escape he took to sports.  Finally he became the captain of the school squash team.

He continued chasing butterflies and vouched that he would be a scientist one day.


1948 Age 15 Yrs.

His Biology teacher made such an adverse report, any other student would have got knocked down completely. ,   "I believe he has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous."  When the head master received the report , he pulled the boy out of the science stream and placed among a group of students of low ability. He had to follow classics. (It is a scrap of paper that Nobel Laureate Sir John Bertrand Gurdon, keeps framed in his Cambridge University Office. He says. “Sometimes when an experiment doesn’t work …..I feel the school master may have been right”.

His father thought of Army training.


1950  Age 17 Yrs.

He could not sit for the University exam in classics. On the advice of the Admissions tutor he studied Elementary Biology, Physics and chemistry.  from  private tutors and sat the Entrance exam.

1953    Age 20 Yrs.

His father paid for an extra years tuition fees for him to learn what he had missed in school. He entered the zoology department at Christ Church, Oxford under Sir Alister Hardy .He got clearance mainly due to the shortage of students for the campus.

1956   Age 23 Yrs.

After his basic degree he got interested in insects and applied for a doctorate in entomology, when this was turned down, he decided to specialize in embryology under Dr. Michael Fischberg. As suggested by his professor he decided to engage in nuclear transplants in line with what had been achieved by Briggs and King.

Robert King and Thomas Briggs performed the experiment in 1952. Using a micro glass pipette, King removed the nucleus of a developing frog embryo cell. It was at blastula stage.  (More than 8 cells) Then he removed the nucleus from an egg cell (oocyte) with a glass needle and replaced it with the nucleus of the blastula cell. In most of the cases they were able to get healthy tadpoles but when they repeated the experiment with the nuclei from mature cells they only got abnormal tadpoles.

Their conclusion was that as the cells specialize and mature the genes undergo irreversible changes. Dr. Michael Fischberg assigned Gurdon to pursue this further for his doctoral thesis.

He repeated the Briggs and King experiment more meticulously. He had the added advantages of using an UV microscope and the finding by another student of Fischberg, a mutation that acted as a genetic marker.

After a few failures, which brought the school masters comment to focus, he succeeded in getting free swimming tadpoles using the nucleus of blastula cells. Then he repeated the experiment using the nucleus of skin cells from the intestine of a frog, which was a somatic cell (a specialised cell). To his utter amazement he was able to get perfectly healthy tadpoles.

1962  Age 29Yrs.

This sent a shockwave among the biologists. This proved that even the mature cells contain all the hereditary traits of an individual. (This is what makes DNA testing possible) In other words, this showed that a specialized cell, called a ‘somatic cell’ (Mature cell) could be reprogrammed into a ‘stem cell’. (Continuously dividing, young unspecialized cell, also known as pluripotent cells)  This brought him the PhD. The biologist John Haldane dubbed John's achievement as "cloning", and a new field was born.

After his doctorate he went to Cal-Tech to do post-doctoral work in bacteriophage   genetics. Although his experiments there were not much successful he declared to have obtained much experience.

1971   Age 38 Yrs.

following spells at the California Institute of Technology and Oxford,

1989   Age 56 Yrs.

was a founding member of the Wellcome/CRC Institute for Cell Biology and Cancer - later renamed the Gurdon Institute - where he still works full-time at the age of 79.  2012 report

1996   Age 63Yrs.

His discovery alone may not have won a Nobel Prize, if not for the subsequent developments. In the line of progress a land mark event was the birth of a sheep on 5/7/1996, free from normal sexual fertilization. They used the nuclear transfer technique developed by John Gurdon. Drs Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell who led the research named it “Dolly” It lived for 6 years and gave birth to several lambs.

His later career was at Cambridge. Head of Cell Biology Division Laboratory of Molecular Biology (1971-1983). Research Professor - at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge (1983-2000) Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology (1989-2001) Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge (1995-2002) Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge (1995-2002)

Gurddon’s research over the years, has thrown light into many areas of molecular biology. They include how an egg cell knows which way to develop, how the cells later select their course, signaling between cells how they live as a community.

2006,   Age 73 Yrs.,

 Prof Shinya Yamanaka discovered how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. Surprisingly, by introducing only a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body

2012  Age 79 Yrs.

CRC Institute for Cell Biology and Cancer - later renamed the Gurdon Institute - where he still works full-time (2012 report)

What really sparked the Karolinska Institute was a discovery made 40 years after his original classic discovery. Stem cell treatment for various diseases is the latest trend in medicine. They are usually obtained from developing human embryo or from umbilical cord blood.  Last year (2012) he shared the Nobel Award for Medicine / Physiology along with Prof. Shinya Yamanaka.