Anne McLaren (1927-2007)


Scientist, teacher, quiet revolutionary, socialist, mentor and encourager of young and unconventional talent - especially in women. She was a founder of the Association of Women in Science and Engineering, and its President for many years. She advanced knowledge about animal and human reproduction, especially sexual differentiation, and had an enduring and prescient interest in genetic-environmental interactions. Immensely practical, she was active internationally in the application of basic reproductive knowledge to the fields of contraception, fertility regulation, infertility treatment and the prevention of HIV infection. She played prominent roles in the national and international Pugwash groups, championing the cause of peaceful scientific cooperation, and the promotion of science in developing countries especially Cuba, China and India. She was politically active in the Women’s Association of Radiation Information in the 1950s, and campaigned against nuclear testing and in support of improved reproductive services for women. In the UK , she was a major scientific contributor to the shaping of public policy on the legal regulation of human embryo research. Intellectually incisive, she could explain with clarity complex science to experts and lay-people alike, and had great faith in the public’s common sense, once they were informed. In science and in society, she offered steady and understated leadership, and was celebrated for her informality, approachability and unprententiousness. She was awarded a Damehood in 1993 but wore her honours lightly, and rarely if ever used her titles of Dame and Professor. She was the first female officer in the 330-year history of the Royal Society, serving as Foreign Secretary and Vice President (1991-1996). Fellow Commoner of Christ's College (1991-2007).

by Professor Martin Johnson