Born in 1943, Richard Lavenham Gardner, Kt, MA, PhD, ScD, FIAT(Hon), FRSB, FRS studied at St. Catharine’s College and the University of Cambridge from 1963-1966, graduating with a First Class Honours B.A. in Physiology. For his PhD, he remained in Cambridge in the Physiological Laboratory of Robert Edwards (Nobel prize winner, pioneer in reproductive medicine and in vitro fertilisation / IVF), where he worked alongside Martin Johnson and was awarded his title in 1971 for his thesis entitled “Investigation of the mammalian blastocyst by microsurgery”. He stayed on in Edward’s lab as a research assistant for another three years, from where he moved to a University Lecturer position at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford (1973-77). During that time (and beyond) he was a Visiting World Health Organization Fellow in Warsaw and Zagreb and Student of Christ Church (Oxford). In 1978 he became Henry Dale Research Professor of the Royal Society at the University of Oxford until 2003. Thereafter he held positions as Edward Penley Abraham Research Professor of the Royal Society (2003-8), honorary Visiting Professor at the University of York (2007-16), and is now an Associate at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Student of Christ Church, Oxford.
Scientifically, Richard is well known as a pioneer in the study of early mammalian development, having made many hugely important discoveries relating to the fate of cells in early mammalian development and the properties of stem cells derived from early embryos (see selected papers below). These were made possible by his strong knack for identifying important questions and addressing them in innovative and at the same time definitive ways, always with extremely elegant experimental design.
His numerous important scientific contributions include: being the first to use clonal analysis to fate map the early mouse embryo, along with experimental manipulations to assess the potency of individual cells, establishing how the germ line is segregated in the early embryo, and pioneering blastocyst injection for studying stem cell potency. His work laid essential foundations for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, now widely used in human fertility clinics, and for the embryonic stem cell (ESC) field. He was one of the pioneers developing and using micromanipulation techniques in mammalian embryos, the kind of technique now commonly used, for example for human IVF and cloning (such as the cloning of the sheep Dolly). He is also known for his work on embryonic stem cell derivation (together with Frances Brook), demonstrating that ESCs originate from the epiblast and that the most efficient method to derive them in mouse is to use delayed-implanting blastocysts (diapause blastocyst).
Throughout his education and scientific career, Richard has excelled in outstanding performance, as is clearly demonstrated by the long list of awards and honours (see Box); and he has always been a committed member of the Developmental Biology community who contributed notably also in policy making relating to ethical issues connected with access and use of human embryos in research, ethical aspects of cloning, and ethical use of animals in research. His dedication is clearly reflected in the many important positions he served in throughout his career:
- Editor of the journal Development (formerly J. Embryol. Exp. Morph, 1977-91) and editorial board member of the journals Gamete Research, Placenta and Cancer Surveys
- President of the Institute of Animal Technology (1986-2006)
- Independent Member of the Advisory Board for the Research Council (1989-93)
- together with Walter Bodmer (head of ICRF) he co-founded the Cancer Research UK Developmental Biology Unit at Oxford’s Zoology Department (attracting the likes of Andy Copp, David Ish Horowitz, Jonathan Slack, Julian Lewis and Phil Ingham), of which he was Honorary Director (1986-96)
- Vice President of the Zoological Society of London (1991-92)
- Vice-President and Member of the Laboratory Animal Science Association Council (1996-99)
- Trustee and then chair of the Edward Penley Abraham Research Fund (1999, 2003)
- President of the Institute of Biology (now Royal Society of Biology; 2007- 08)
- Chair of the Royal Society Working Group on Stem Cells and Therapeutic Cloning (1998-08)
- Chair of the Animals in Science Education Trust (AS-ET; current)
- Author of numerous reports to commissions, committees and inquiries of significant political impact
- Organiser of various scientific conferences, meetings or discussion forums.
Richard’s enormous influence is also reflected in the fact that he was mentor to many illustrious embryologists, including Janet Rossant (PhD, 1976), Andrew Copp (DPhil, 1978), John Heath (DPhil, 1979), Paul Tesar (DPhil, 2007), Virginia E. Papaioannou (postdoc, 1973-81), Jenny Nichols (PhD, 1990), Karen Downs (1989-93) and the recipient of the 1999 Waddington medal Rosa Beddington (D. Phil., 1983) – to name but a few.
But it should also be pointed out that aside all this prolific work in science as well as science administration and policy, Richard still has been finding time for an impressive number of hobbies, of which he lists ornithology, music, sailing (unfortunately no longer!), gardening, clay shooting and painting landscapes in watercolour. To illustrate Richard’s continued dedication, he donated his latest three watercolour paintings to the AS-ET and they were sold for a gratifying £1150 to provide bursaries and other awards to enable laboratory animal technicians to advance their education and training.
The BSDB would like to congratulate Richard Gardner for the Waddington award, of which he certainly is a most worthy recipient.