ISSN 1062-3604, Russian Journal of Developmental Biology, 2008, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 127–129. © Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2008.
Original Russian Text © A.V. Zelenin, 2008, published in Ontogenez, 2008, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 157–160.
I knew Anne McLaren for more than 45 years, dur-
ing which our superﬁcial acquaintance has grown into
I cannot help sharing some personal memories
about this outstanding woman.
We ﬁrst met in 1961 during my half-year training in
cell biology at the Department of Zoology at Edinburgh
University, while she worked in the neighboring build-
ing, as the signboard said, the Institute of Animal
Genetics. Both these departments played an outstand-
ing role in the development of biological science later
called new biology (which was reﬂected in the launch-
ing of a separate Nature series—Nature New Biology);
however, the Institute of Animal Genetics directed by
Conrad Waddington was more famous. The genetic
department was also known for gifted middle-aged sci-
entists clearly including 34-year-old Anne McLaren. I
do not remember details of our meetings then, but
future has shown that we remembered each other.
This became clear in mid-1970s, when my wife
Iness, who worked at the Institute of Obstetrics and
Gynaecology of the Russian Academy of Medical Sci-
ences, called at my ofﬁce and said that they are visited
by a World Health Organization commission to control
the application of funds of the WHO grant, and that she
would like to invite two members of the commission to
our home. At the time, I was forbidden to travel abroad
and knew that we are not allowed to invite foreigners
without special permission but only asked what food
she is going to serve. Several hours later, two visitors
entered our appartment and one of them, down-dressed
not tall brunette exclaimed at me, “But you are Alex!”
Clearly, Anne did not realize that she was invited to
Alex whom she met at the University of Edinburgh.
I remember three details of this party.
Concerning the food, Anne was most impressed not
by hard-to-ﬁnd caviar but rather by strawberry jam,
namely, that it was homemade from wild strawberry
collected by my wife near our dacha (Russian country
Second, when Anne asked about Prof. Dyban,
whom she knew from different international confer-
ences, I called his private number in Leningrad, passed
the phone to her, and left the room.
I also remember Anne telling that this was her sec-
ond visit to Moscow since she was here in 1957 at the
famous Festival of Youth and Students.
Our next meeting also occurred in Moscow.
The International Congress of Genetics was held at
Moscow State University in summer 1978. That time
was hard for our country falling into the Cold War. Se-
veral months before the Congress, Western Countries
reinforced the campaign against human rights abuses in
the Soviet Union, particularly, against prevention of
Jews from going to Israel. A group of foreign scientists
called colleagues to ignore the conference in Moscow,
and some registered participants including several
speakers followed. Anne was not among them. She not
only came to Moscow and made a brilliant scheduled
report but also made an extempore speech instead of
one of politicized scientists from the United States that
tried to punish the Soviet Union.
We met with Anne many times during the Congress
and discussed various problems and only once had mis-
understanding, when I said that cannot invite her due to
our apartment renovation. She smiled sadly and did not
believe, although it was true. Apparently, she knew that
“apartment renovation” was a standard excuse of Soviet
people not to invite foreigners. Only two years later I
persuaded Anne that it was not an excuse.
The summer of 1980 was even more politically
complex for our country since the unfriendly forces
abroad were given a serious occasion to do maximum
harm to the Soviet Union for the occupation of Afghan-
istan. The United States and some other countries
called to boycott the Olympic Games in Moscow. Great
Britain followed the United States in this action and
British athletes could participate in the Olympic Games
personally but not ofﬁcially. Recognized member of the
Royal Society, Prof. Anne McLaren did not follow the
call of British prime minister.
One Olympic day my phone rang and Anne’s voice
told me that she is in Moscow and would like to see me.
I told her that me and my family would be happy to
invite her home. She thanked me and said in some con-
fusion that she is not alone and arrived with a lot of rel-
atives—son, two daughters and boyfriend of one of
them, and ex-husband and father of her children. After
a brief consultation with my wife, I conﬁrmed the invi-
It was a very cheerful party with many jokes and
memories. I met other members of her family later in
Moscow and London, but it was the only time I met
Prof. Donald Michie. Only from his obituary I learned
details of his life and career; in particular, during World
War II, he actively participated in solving the famous
Enigma cipher used in German submarine force, and
In Memory of a Friend