Elected: 1966
Discipline: Organismal and Environmental Biology
Professor John Murdoch Mitchison FRS FRSE
J.M. Mitchison, invariably known as Murdoch, had a long and distinguished career in the University of Edinburgh, beginning in 1953. He was born in London into a remarkable family. His father, Dick Mitchison, was a Labour shadow cabinet member in the 60s. His mother Naomi, was a distinguished writer and her brother J.B.S. Haldane was one of the key founders of modern genetics. Murdoch’s two brothers are also prominent biologists.

As a boy, he won a scholarship to Winchester which he enjoyed, describing most of the teaching as excellent. This led to a scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge to read medicine. He finished his Tripos in 1941 but by that time was sure that he didn’t want to proceed further with medicine even before he was recruited into Operational Research (OR) for the remainder of the war. OR incorporated a number of bright young scientists, some went to Bletchley Park, others were set to investigating diverse projects of military concern. Murdoch was involved with gunnery, the calculation of range tables, the armour plating of tanks and – as he related it – somewhat hilarious research into the viscosity of mud. He ended the war in northern Italy with the 8th Army, one of his responsibilities being the daily production of ‘Mud Reps’ to help with the deployment of armoured vehicles.

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