Sir John B. Gurdon


Sir John B. Gurdon

© The Nobel Foundation. Photo: U. Montan

Sir John B. Gurdon
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012

Born: 2 October 1933, Dippenhall, United Kingdom

Affiliation at the time of the award: Gurdon Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Prize motivation: “for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent”

Prize share: 1/2


John Gurdon was born in Dippenhall, Hampshire, UK. He studied at Eton College boarding school, although his grades were not particularly good. A report written by one of his teachers called his ambition to devote himself to science ridiculous. Gurdon pursued his dream nonetheless, and went on to earn his PhD from Oxford University. After spending some years at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Gurdon returned to Oxford in 1962. He has been affiliated with Cambridge University since 1971. John Gurdon is married with two children.


Our lives begin when a fertilized egg divides and forms new cells that, in turn, also divide. These cells are identical in the beginning, but become increasingly varied over time. It was long thought that a mature or specialized cell could not return to an immature state, but this has now been proven incorrect. In 1962, John Gurdon removed the nucleus of a fertilized egg cell from a frog and replaced it with the nucleus of a cell taken from a tadpole's intestine. This modified egg cell grew into a new frog, proving that the mature cell still contained the genetic information needed to form all types of cells.

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