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Ernest McCulloch 1926-2011

Posted by , on 27 January 2011

Last week (January 19), stem cell pioneer Ernest McCulloch died at the age of 84. Together with James Till, McCulloch discovered stem cells in the 1960s. For their work, the pair won the Gairdner Award in 1969 and the Lasker Award in 2005. McCulloch was professor emeritus of the University of Toronto and former Director at the Ontario Cancer Institute at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. See the news article on UofT’s website for more information.

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3 thoughts on “Ernest McCulloch 1926-2011”

  1. Thanks for this Eva. Here’s what I sent to my colleagues at Gladstone:

    Ernest McCulloch passed away yesterday. He and Jim Till discovered stem cells over 40 years ago at the University of Toronto, and were the exemplar of multidisciplinary teamwork: McCulloch was a hematologist, and Till a biophysicist, and together they leveraged each other’s strengths to design experiments that showed that single cells from mouse bone marrow could give rise to spleen nodules, and that these cells were capable of self-renewal, defining for the first time the concept of a stem cell.

    If you’ve worked with stem cells, be they hematopoietic, embryonic, or other, you have Ernest McCullouch and Jim Till to thank. Till and McCulloch shared the Lasker Award in 2005, and were considered definite candidates for a Nobel prize. Jim Till will unfortunately have to accept this one alone when it comes.

    Their multidisciplinary teamwork should serve as an inspiration to all of us, and remind us that at a place like Gladstone, we just have to turn to our neighbour to get the inspiration, talent, and camaraderie that we need to make great discoveries. We are that fortunate.

    Scientists like this don’t come by very often, and on top of it McCulloch trained excellent students. A wonderful tribute from one of his former graduate students can be found here:

    I hope that if you didn’t know about Ernest McCulloch and his work with Jim Till, that his passing will bring their partnership and discoveries into a bright new light that can inspire us all.

    1. Thanks for sharing! That’s a lot more eloquent than the few sentences I quickly bashed out this morning.

      (My first thought when I read the news was: “Oh no, now he’ll never get the Nobel Prize!” but couldn’t quite work out how to work that in there, so I’m glad you mentioned he was pretty much a shoe-in for that award.)

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