100 Greatest Science Inventions of All Time

By Kendall Haven | Go to book overview

Cloning
Year of Invention: 1996

What Is It? A descendant produced from a single parent plant or animal that is
an exact genetic match of the parent.

Who Invented It? Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell (in Scotland)


Why Is This Invention One of the 100 Greatest?

Cloning seems like a science fiction technology. But cloning technology exists today. Its potential benefit is far greater than fiction writers ever imagined.

Cloning technology has the potential to cure a dozen deadly diseases, to stop another dozen debilitating ailments, to reduce world hunger, and to eliminate infant genetic defects. Cloning technology can repair DNA and gene defects and repair damaged spinal tissue so than many wheelchair-bound people could freely walk.


History of the Invention

What Did People Do Before?

The idea of cloning dates back to 1938. German scientist Hans Spellman proposed a “fantastic experiment” to transfer one cell’s nucleus into an egg cell that didn’t have a nucleus. The idea sparked wild enthusiasm in the global biology community. Cloning seemed like the perfect way to study the process of cell and DNA division and the meaning of life.

In 1962, American researcher John Gruden tried to clone frogs. Gruden used a microscopic pipette to suck the nucleus out of one cell in a frog embryo and implanted that nucleus into a frog egg from a different frog. As that egg began to develop, it was a perfect clone of the donor frog. However, each cloned frog died in the tadpole stage before it began to feed.

Even though Gruden failed, his experiment was a milestone in cloning. He had cloned an animal.

In 1984, Danish scientist Steen Willadsen was the first researcher to successfully clone a mammal. He cloned a sheep by transferring a nucleus from one cell of a sheep embryo to the egg cell from another sheep before that egg had time to divide for the first time.

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