In 1991, McClaren became the first woman to serve as an officer in The Royal SocietyPaweł Czerwiński/UNSPLASH

Today’s (26/04) Google Doodle has celebrated the life of Dame Anne McLaren on what would have been her 94th birthday. McLaren was a pioneering British biologist and Fellow Commoner of Christ’s College.

McLaren’s research was key to the development of human in vitro fertilisation (IVF), with her 1958 paper documenting her successful in-vitro development of mouse embryos. This paper, co-written with Professor John Biggers, was hailed as “one of the most significant papers in the history of reproductive biology and medicine” by Henry Leese, Emeritus Professor at the University of York. IVF treatment began in humans in the late 1970s. 

McLaren worked at the Institute of Animal Genetics in Edinburgh for 15 years where she researched topics related to fertility, mammalian development and epigenetics.

She was appointed as the sole research scientist on the Warnock Committee, a governmental body responsible for establishing policies on IVF technology, in 1982. In this role she was crucial to the enactment of the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which restricts the in-vitro culturing of human embryos to 14 days.

Appointed Foreign Secretary of The Royal Society in 1991, McLaren became the first woman officer of the organisation. She was later appointed the society’s vice-president 1992-1996.

In 1993, McLaren was made a Dame when she was awarded a DBE in recognition of her contribution to science.

A year later, she became president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (now the British Science Association), which seeks to promote science to the general public. Through this role, she engaged with audiences across Britain with the aim of making science, technology and engineering more accessible to everyone.

McLaren died in a road traffic accident in 2007 at the age of 80. In her obituary in the scientific journal ‘Future Medicine’, she was praised as “one of the most eminent and highly respected reproductive biologists of the twentieth century”.