Today, 17 years ago, Dolly the sheep came into this world.
She was the very first successfully cloned mammal in the world. English Embryologist, Sir Ian Wilmut, and British Biologist, Keith H.S. Campbel, were the two great scientist responsible for the birth of this cloned sheep, at the Roslin Institute, Midlothian, Scotland.

Dolly the Sheep

When I first learnt about cloning in school, I remember being fascinated by this unique concept of being able to create an exact copy of a person. There have been some very interesting movies in past based on artificial human cloning, which at the same time do debate on how unethical it would be to do so. Of course this debate is on artificial human cloning, not human cloning that occurs via a natural process of reproduction, in the form of identical twins. The term cloning itself refers to the creation of a genetically identical creature, of another; which occurs naturally in certain bacteria and plants that reproduce asexually. Another subject I enjoyed whilst studying in school, was about the Amoeba, a single celled organism that reproduces asexually, by splitting into two, in turn creating it’s clone naturally.

Cloning FilmsThe oldest good movie I remember watching as a teenager, was The Boys from Brazil (1978), somewhere in the early/mid 90’s, (when it was shown on a local television network), a horror film about the consequences of cloning a tyrannical ruler, in this case Hitler. And I remember being impressed by Jurassic Park (1993), not only due to the very realistic creation of the dinosaurs, but also Richard Attenborough’s, well detailed, yet simplified enough, explanation on the process of cloning. Of course, these movies do not glamorize cloning, and point out the negative results of unorthodox procreation of mankind (and extinct mammals in the case of Jurassic Park).

But none the less the creation of Dolly, was a great breakthrough for science. But unfortunately, this sheep, born on 5th July 1996, died aged six, on Valentines Day, ten years ago (on the 14th of February 2003). She was euthanized, as she was suffering from progressive lung disease and severe arthritis. Dolly spent her entire life at the Roslin Institute, and during her lifetime she did give natural birth to six lambs, fathered by a horned ‘Welsh Mountain’ ram.

Dolly the sheep was supposedly named after famed country singer, Dolly Parton (who is famous for her breasts as much as vocal talents), as the sheep was cloned from a cell taken from an adult ewe’s mammary gland.

Post Dolly, many other large mammals, like horses and bulls, have been successfully cloned till date. Even the extinct Pyrenean ibex, a wild snow-mountain goat, that was officially declared extinct 2000, was cloned in 2009, in Spain; but newborn ibex died shortly after birth due to physical defects in its lungs. That was the first attempt at cloning an extinct creature.

Nuwan Sen n’ Science