Sir John Gurdon was educated at Eton College where a schoolmaster reported that he was unsuited for a career in science. He later attended Christ Church, Oxford, England, where he initially studied classics and later switched to zoology. For his D.Phil. degree, he studied nuclear transplantation in the frog Xenopus with Michael Fischberg, Ph.D. He obtained the first clone of genetically identical adult vertebrate animals and demonstrated genetic totipotency of somatic cell nuclei by obtaining sexually mature frogs from the nuclei of intestinal epithelium. He did postdoctoral work at Cal-Tech (Pasadena, California) on bacteriophage genetics. He moved to the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge (England), subsequently becoming head of the Cell Biology Division. In 1983, he accepted the John Humphrey Plummer Professorship of Cell Biology in the University of Cambridge (England) Zoology Department where, along with Professor Ron Laskey, he initiated the Cancer Research Campaign Unit of Molecular Embryology. In 1990, he moved to the new Wellcome CRC Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology in Cambridge, and served as chairman from 1990 to 2001. In 2001, the Institute was renamed The Gurdon Institute. From 1995 to 2002, Dr. Gurdon was master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and governor of the Wellcome Trust from 1995 to 2000. From 2001 to 2011, he was chairman of the Company of Biologists.
Dr. Gurdon has received various recognitions, including the 2009 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award and, most recently, the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.