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Sir Martin John Evans FRS (born 1 January 1941) is a Britishmarker scientist, credited with discovering how to culture embryonic stem cells in 1981, and for his work in the development of the knockout mouse and the related technology of gene targeting. In 2007, he was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in recognition of his gene targeting work.

Early life

Evans was born in Stroudmarker, Gloucestershiremarker, Englandmarker on 1 January 1941. His mother was a teacher. His father maintained a mechanical workshop and taught Evans to use the tools and machines there, including a lathe. Evans was close to his grandfather who was a choir master at a Baptist Church for over 40 years, and whose main interests were music, poetry and the Baptist Church. His mother's brother was a professor of astronomy at the University of Cambridge. As a boy Evans was quiet, shy and inquisitive. He liked science and his parents encouraged his education. He was brought up in Orpingtonmarker and he went to St Dunstan's Collegemarker, an independent school for boys in South East Londonmarker, where he worked hard studying for the University of Cambridgemarker entrance exams. At school he was one of the best pupils, although not at the top of the class.


Evans was a student at Christ's Collegemarker, University of Cambridge, at a time when there were many advances in genetics. He went to seminars by Sydney Brenner and attended lectures given by Jacques Monod. He graduated from Christ's Collegemarker, University of Cambridge in 1963, although he did not take his final examinations because he was ill with glandular fever at that time. He moved to University College Londonmarker where he was awarded a PhD in 1969.He became a lecturer in the Anatomy and Embryology department at University College London, where he did research work, and taught PhD students and undergraduate students. In 1978 he moved to the Department of Genetics, at the University of Cambridgemarker, where his work in association with Matthew Kaufman began in 1980. In October 1985 he visited the Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker for one month of bench work to learn new techniques. In 1990s, he was a fellow at St Edmund's Collegemarker, University of Cambridge.In 1999 he became Professor of Mammalian Genetics and Director of the School of Biosciences at Cardiff Universitymarker, where he worked until he retired at the end of 2007. Evans has been appointed president of Cardiff Universitymarker and was inaugurated into that position on 23 November 2009, replacing Neil Kinnock.

Stem cell research

In 1981, Evans and Kaufman published results for experiments in which they isolated embryonic stem cells from mouse blastocysts and grew them in cell culture. This was also achieved by Gail R. Martin, independently, in the same year. The availability of these cultured stem cells eventually made possible the introduction of specific gene alterations into the germ line of mice and the creation of transgenic mice.

Evans and his collaborators showed that they could introduce a new gene into cultured embryonic stem cells and then use such genetically transformed cells to make chimeric embryos. In some chimeric embryos, the genetically altered stem cells produced gametes, thus allowing transmission of the artificially induced mutation into future generations of mice. Transgenic mice with induced mutations in the enzyme Hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT) were created. The HPRT mutations were produced by retroviral insertion, but it was proposed that by taking advantage of genetic recombination between the normal HPRT gene and an artificial gene sequenced added to the cultured embryonic stem cells, "it may also eventually be possible to produce specific alterations in endogenous genes through homologous recombination with cloned copies modified in vitro". The production of transgenic mice using this proposed approach was accomplished in the laboratories of Oliver Smithies, and also of Mario Capecchi.

Awards and recognition

Personal life

When Evans was a student in Cambridge he met his wife, Judith, at a lunch held by his aunt, wife of an astronomy professor. Later, after they were engaged, their relationship was not going well and Judith went to Canada; however, a year later she returned to England and they got married. In 1978 they moved from London to Cambridge with young children, and they lived in Cambridge for more than 20 years before moving to Cardiff. They have one daughter and two sons. Their older son was a student at the University of Cambridge and their younger son was a boarding pupil at the Christ Church Cathedral Schoolmarker in Oxford and sung in the Christ Church Cathedral choir.

Judith Evans, granddaughter of Christopher Williams, was awarded an MBE for her services to practice nursing in 1993. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at about the time the family moved to Cardiff. She works for breast cancer charities, and Martin Evans has become a trustee of Breakthrough Breast Cancer.


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