Twenty-one years ago, on July 5th1996, Dolly the sheep was born at the Scottish Roslin institute, near Edinburgh. Her birth was not made public until the following year in February 22, 1997. What is fascinating about “Dolly’s” birth is that she was created from a mammary cell of a six year-old sheep and an unfertilized egg of another sheep and then implanted into a surrogate ewe.
For ten years, lead researchers, Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell worked on perfecting the cloning process. Many scientists believed it was not possible to clone an animal from anything other than embryonic material. Dolly’s birth proved everybody wrong, and she became an instant celebrity. Interestingly, issues arose around her successful birth, when religious leaders, ethicists and politicians worldwide began debating the case for and against human cloning. Time magazine ran a special report in 1997 on cloning with the interesting slogan of “Will there ever be another you?” giving its readership more food for thought on the subject. Still even today, human cloning remains a very volatile issue.
Since Dolly’s birth, cloning has been successfully carried out with mice, pigs, horses and other animals. It has even injected enthusiasm into preserving endangered species and bringing back extinct species, such as woolly mammoths.
Dolly, who had ignited so much interest and debate into cloning was euthanized in 2003, after doctors discovered she had progressive lung cancer.
Photo credits: The header image of a “stuffed” Dolly is licensed and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. Dolly the sheep in her surrounds at the Roslin Institute is licensed and used under The Getty Images embedding service.