Navigating Brave New Worlds: A Close Analysis of Anne McLaren's Laboratory Notebook - British Library Research Repository
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Navigating Brave New Worlds: A Close Analysis of Anne McLaren's Laboratory Notebook

December 2019

Abstract

Dr Anne McLaren (1927–2007) was a leading developmental biologist with a decorated career that spanned more than fifty years. In particular, McLaren was interested in the ways in which an individual is always connected to, and a part of, its many environments. This interest led her to the study of mammalian development and genetics, where her work famously advanced the development of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The British Library holds an extensive collection of McLaren's papers (Add. MSS. 83830-83981 and Add. MS. 89202) and this article focuses on one laboratory notebook from these papers, Add. MS. 83844, in particular. This notebook documents egg transfer experiments conducted on mice by McLaren and her collaborator Dr Donald Michie (1923–2007) between 1955 and 1959. As I will work to show, this notebook allows a consideration of the painstaking daily tasks on which scientific advancements rely and provides insight into McLaren's working environments as she approached the IVF breakthrough. The first section of the article therefore analyses the ways in which the notebook is used to structure the detailed experimental data on egg transfers that it collects. The second section of the article situates the egg transfer experiments within the larger context of McLaren's working environment at the time of the notebook's creation, including by showing their connection to the IVF experiments. Throughout this discussion, I argue that Add. MS. 83844 attests to the ways in which McLaren used the environments, people, and resources around her to their fullest potential, asking as much as she could from them while also giving back to and through them.

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