Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
10 Feb 2017
Last year we brought you the news that MRC scientist Dr Rosa Beddington’s papers were to become the first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow archived by the Royal Society. As we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science tomorrow, the Royal Society’s Laura Outterside delves deeper into the archive, which is now available for viewing at the Royal Society in London.
Beddington was one of the most skilled and influential mammalian experimental embryologists of her generation, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. The collection comprises the contents of Beddington’s office at Mill Hill, where she was Head of the Division of Mammalian Development at the MRC’s National Institute for Medical Research.
Her archive strikes a balance between the personal and professional. You’ll find photographs of Beddington, her old passport (reference number BED/1/1), and her undergraduate notebooks (reference number BED/1/4), including brief forays into diary keeping. And you’ll find ample evidence of Beddington’s surgical and experimental skills, reflected through a series of lab books (reference number BED/2/1) and microscope slides of mouse embryos (reference number BED/5/1). [...]
Continue reading: The lab notes and doodles of Rosa Beddington
1 Jul 2016
Today, Professor Tim Bliss will be awarded The Brain Prize alongside Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris. Bliss worked at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) from 1967 to 2015 and is now a visiting worker at The Crick. Archivist Emma Anthony found this photo of the young Bliss in the NIMR records and Sylvie Kruiniger finds out more.
The work on ‘long term potentiation’ (LTP) by Bliss, Collingridge and Morris has demonstrated how our brains change as we build memories. Bliss and Terje Lømo were the first to detail how LTP worked back in 1973 when they published the results of their studies conducted in anaesthetised rabbits. [...]
Continue reading: To the Crick! Part four: Think long and hard
20 Apr 2016
Conservators Rebecca Bennett and Jill Barnard tell us about their project, funded by PRISM, to conserve 150 items from the Crick Mill Hill Laboratory (previously the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, NIMR) in preparation for the move to the Francis Crick Institute. The objects will be used by the Crick for exhibition and may also be loaned to education groups with an interest in the history of biomedical research.
Polystyrene proteins: This early model of a ribosome designed by Robert Cox and built by NIMR engineer Frank Doré in 1968 was signed by some of the leading biomedical scientists of the time – including Francis Crick.
We are now 11 weeks into our ‘Tools of the Trade’ conservation project. So far we have treated 137 of 150 historical objects that tell the story of how research developed at NIMR over the course of 100 years. [...]
Continue reading: To the Crick! Part three: From polystyrene proteins to circuit board spaghetti
8 Mar 2016
In ‘To the Crick! Part 1: Moving home after 100 years’ we talked about how items like personal papers from the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) archives are in need of a new home. The papers of one of NIMR’s most famous names, Rosa Beddington, are being rehoused in the archive of The Royal Society. Royal Society archivist Laura Outterside is celebrating the arrival of the first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). This post was originally published on The Respository and has been adapted and reproduced here with kind permission from The Royal Society.
Rosa Beddington on admissions day in 1999 when she became a Fellow of the Royal Society. ©The Royal Society
What better way for the Royal Society archive to celebrate International Women’s Day than by welcoming our first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow? We’ve recently had the good news that the Royal Society archive will be the new home for the papers of Rosa Beddington, a developmental biologist at the NIMR who became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. [...]
Continue reading: To the Crick! Part two: The Royal Society welcomes its first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow
19 Feb 2016
The National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Mill Hill became part of the Francis Crick Institute in 2015 and this year it will move to its new home in King’s Cross. In the first of a series of blogs about the history of NIMR, project archivist Emma Anthony talks to Sylvie Kruiniger about the preservation of NIMR records.
Hundreds of researchers, engineers, technicians, support staff and librarians are moving across London. In preparation, Emma Anthony is going through the extensive records of NIMR to determine which have historical value.
The three homes of a national medical research institute: Hampstead, Mill Hill and The Crick.
This isn’t the first time that the century-old, publicly-funded medical research institute has moved home. The institute moved to Mill Hill in 1950, having grown significantly in size and renown. These images from the archive show its first home, in Hampstead, and an vintage snap of its current location, Mill Hill. [...]
Continue reading: To the Crick! Part one: Moving home after 100 years
30 Apr 2015
The MRC National Institute for Medical Research closed at the end of March, with much of its research and scientists moving to the new Francis Crick Institute. Dr Qiling Xu, now a researcher at the Crick Institute, wanted to capture something of the spirit of NIMR ― and decided that taking up paintbrushes and embroidery needles would be an excellent way to do so.
On the 1 April, the NIMR ceased to exist and became the Crick Mill Hill Laboratory. To mark this event, I suggested we produced a textile artwork as a lasting memento. We invited each research lab, support section and club to create an artwork on a small square of cloth, which we then stitched together to form a single work that celebrates the science, life and ethos of NIMR. [...]
Continue reading: NIMR scientists find the inner artist
27 Feb 2015
Peter Medawar with colleagues at the NIMR
Peter Medawar, Nobel Laureate and Director of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in the 1960s, was born 100 years ago on 28 February. Here Frank Norman, Head of Library Services at the NIMR, looks back on how his research into skin grafts led to modern organ transplants, and his significant role in encouraging and supporting young scientists.
It was in 1940 that transplantation sparked the interest of the young Peter Medawar. While working as a researcher at the University of Oxford, an RAF plane crashed near to his home and one of the airmen suffered severe burns.
Through his experience of trying to help the airman, Medawar became interested in treating burn victims with skin grafts – a risky and often unsuccessful intervention. He prepared a review of the literature, Notes on the problem of skin homografts, which he sent to the War Wounds Committee of the MRC. [...]
Continue reading: A look back at Peter Medawar
4 Dec 2014
Staff with dogs at Rhodes Farm in 1928
Today’s research animals live in high-tech environments designed with welfare in mind. The contrast with the situation in the early 20th century when the MRC National Institute for Medical Research was founded is marked, and the institute itself has made a huge contribution to this progress. Here we look at just some of their contributions, extracted from a book telling the story of the research institute’s 100-year history.
No one does animal research for the sake of it, and those charged with looking after research animals are committed ― and held by law ― to ensuring that animals used in research are provided with the highest standards of care and welfare.
In the institute’s early days, animals were housed in individual labs, but in 1922 the MRC bought 39 acres of land at Mill Hill in north London to create field laboratories at Rhodes Farm. Within a year, there were specially designed facilities for breeding and keeping dogs and small animals, with local girls helping to care for and exercise the dogs. At the main institute site in Hampstead animals were kept in a new annex ― built in 1927 ― in “the highest possible standard of hygienic conditions for the keeping of experimental animals”. [...]
Continue reading: The history of animal research at the NIMR
8 Oct 2014
In her runner-up article for the 2014 Max Perutz Science Writing Award Wiebke Nahrendorf, a PhD student at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, explains why she’s been infecting volunteers with malaria in the name of research.
Nijmegen, The Netherlands. It is cold and a slight drizzle makes it uncomfortable to roam the campus of Radboud University. It seems like an unlikely place to study a tropical disease. And yet behind the walls of the university medical centre an angry buzz emerges from cups, which look just like the ones for take-away coffee ― only with a bit of white netting on top. The source of the buzzing: fifteen mosquitoes in each pot. These mosquitoes are infected with the deadliest parasite on earth: Plasmodium, which causes malaria. And they are hungry. For human blood.
In the waiting room two dozen volunteers are about to be called in to put their left arm on to a cup filled with these mosquitoes, which, while sucking blood, will infect them with malaria. But HOLD ON! That seems like a terrible idea! Of course, these brave volunteers knew what they were in for and there is a whole battalion of dedicated doctors to check on them 24/7 and treat them if necessary, but still… Why are we infecting healthy Dutch people with malaria? [...]
Continue reading: Vaccines and volunteers: preventing malaria with a cup of mosquitoes
13 Aug 2014
Leonard Hill wasn’t the type of researcher to confine his research to the laboratory, as this picture shows. Here Julie Clayton, author of a new history of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, takes a look behind this picture to a man concerned with the health and wellbeing of everyone from slum-dwelling children to parliamentarians.
Leonard Hill on a boat during a diving experiment (Image copyright: The Physiological Society, sourced from the Wellcome Library)
This photo, taken circa 1925, shows Leonard Hill ― mustachioed and dressed somewhat inappropriately for a day on the water ― alongside two of his research subjects.
As well as wearing these cumbersome suits, deep-water divers at the time often suffered the painful and dangerous condition of “the bends” when they ascended too quickly to the surface.
It was physiologist Hill who found that the drop in external pressure during ascent led to the formation of tiny bubbles of nitrogen gas in the blood. He did experiments on frogs to demonstrate that the bubbles dissolve again into the blood stream upon recompression. His work led to recommendations for a slow and steady decompression for divers as a remedy. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: Leonard Hill and the divers