Blue plaque unveiled at Hampstead home of Sir Peter Medawar ‘father of organ transplants’

15:18 14 July 2014

Sir Peter Medwar

Sir Peter Medwar's children, pictured (from left) Alexander Medawar, Louise Stevenson, Charles Medawar and Caroline Garland-Taylor, at the unveiling of a blue plaque to commemorate their father. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email

A Nobel Prize-winning immunologist who is widely considered to be the “father of organ transplantation” has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former Hampstead home.

Nobel Prize-winning biologist Sir Peter Medawar (1915-1987) was responsible for crucial advances in organ transplantation. Picture: © Godfrey Argent StudioNobel Prize-winning biologist Sir Peter Medawar (1915-1987) was responsible for crucial advances in organ transplantation. Picture: © Godfrey Argent Studio

Sir Peter Medawar was responsible for pioneering research into the successful transfer of human tissue and organs, notably as chair of zoology at University College London.

English Heritage’s head curator Dr Jeremy Ashbee joined friends, family and colleagues of Sir Peter at a ceremony for the plaque unveiling in Downshire Hill on Friday.

Dr Ashbee said: “Sir Peter was a formidable scientist whose research enabled the successful transplantation of human tissue and organs.

“His research has saved countless lives and this blue plaque celebrates both his groundbreaking work and his life here in London.”

Sir Peter Medawar's daughter Louise Stevenson with theatre director Sir Jonathan Miller at the plaque unveiling. Picture: Nigel SuttonSir Peter Medawar's daughter Louise Stevenson with theatre director Sir Jonathan Miller at the plaque unveiling. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Born in Brazil, Sir Peter moved to England towards the end of the First World War and graduated with a first in zoology from Magdalen College, Oxford, before staying on to study the science of tissue growth and repair during the 1940s.

He was famously asked to help treat an RAF pilot who had suffered severe burns after his bomber had crashed in north Oxford, which became a seminal moment in his career.

The biologist continued his research at the University of Birmingham until 1951, when he moved to London and joined UCL’s zoology department.

In 1960, Sir Peter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology in recognition of his breakthrough discovery of how the human body can function using foreign tissue.

Actor Andrew Sachs was a friend of Sir Peter. Picture: Nigel SuttonActor Andrew Sachs was a friend of Sir Peter. Picture: Nigel Sutton

He went on to serve as director of the National Institute of Medical Research but suffered from the effects of a severe stroke and retired in 1970.

He lived in Downshire Hill from the mid 1970s until his death in 1987, at the age of 72, though he also spent many years living at Mount Vernon House, Holly Hill, and Lawn House in Hampstead.

Sir Peter’s children – Caroline, Charles, Louise and Alexander – said that the unveiling was a very happy occasion for the family.

“We remember and admire Peter not only for his great distinction as a scientist, but also as a most generous, brave and delightful man, with a marvellous and playful sense of humour too,” they said.

Friends of Sir Peter, including Kilburn-based actor Andrew Sachs and revered theatre director Sir Jonathan Miller, also attended the blue plaque ceremony.

Mr Sachs, who read to Sir Peter during his illness, said: “It’s wonderful to be here. You couldn’t help but admire Peter’s achievements – he was a kind, funny and truly magical man.”

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