On this day: 28th February 1915

Sir Peter Medawar, considered ‘the father of transplantation’, is born.

Sir Peter Medawar was set on his path to a Nobel Peace prize when he arrived in Oxford in 1935 to begin his research career, working with Professor Howard Florey.

In 1941, a bomber crashed near his house in north Oxford. The pilot survived but was badly burned. Medawar recalled this as a ‘kind of shock’ that inspired his subsequent work to solve the problem of grafting skin over severe burns.

Medawar started to investigate whether he could grow skin in tissue cultures, and worked on transplanting patches of skin from donors to burns patients to see if he could form a permanent graft. His work led him to discover the role of the immune system in the rejection of donor tissue and subsequently, how to make such grafts immunologically acceptable to the body – a discovery that would transform the world of organ transplantation and see Medawar awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1960.

Richard Dawkins called Medawar ‘the wittiest of all science writers’ and in 1959 Medawar delivered the BBC Reith Lecture. A Fellow of Magdalen and St John’s College, Oxford, he received a knighthood in 1965.

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