Sir John Gurdon FMedSci FRS

John Gurdon is a Nobel Prize-winning developmental biologist who performed pioneering research on nuclear transplantation and cloning. In his seminal experiment, John replaced the nucleus of a frog egg with the nucleus of a mature cell from the tadpole intestine. The resulting embryo grew into a healthy clone of the tadpole — indicating that, despite their specialisation, the nuclei of adult cells still hold the potential to become any other type of cell.

However, John’s discovery could not be fully confirmed until Shinya Yamanaka — with whom he was jointly awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine — identified a small set of proteins expressed in embryos that conclusively induced the reversion of an adult somatic cell to an immature state.

John currently investigates the mechanisms by which egg cells reverse the specialisation of adult cells, aiming to produce replacements for damaged tissues from readily available sources, such as the skin. He was knighted for services to developmental biology in 1995, and the techniques that he developed to perform nuclear transfer remain in use today.

Subject groups

  • Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology

    Developmental biology


  • Copley Medal

    For his unique range of groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of cell and developmental biology. He pioneered the concept that specialised cells are genetically equivalent and that they differ only in the genes they express not the genes they contain,

  • Croonian Medal and Lecture

    On 'Egg cytoplasm and gene control in development'.

  • Florey Lecture

    On 'How an egg makes an embryo: the initiation of cell differentiation'.

  • Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

    Jointly with Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.

  • Royal Medals

    For his outstanding contributions to the techniques of nuclear transplantation and the use of the amphibian egg for investigations on replication, transcription and translation of genes.

  • Rutherford Memorial Lecture

    Given in Australia.

  • Wolf Prize

    In the field of medicine for his introduction of the xenopus oocyte into molecular biology and his demonstration that the nucleus of a differentiated cell and of the egg differ in expression but not in the content of genetic material.

Sir John Gurdon FMedSci FRS
Elected 1971