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Posts tagged ‘MRC history’

Celebrating MRC successes

To celebrate the successes of MRC-funded research and the people behind the discoveries, today we’ve launched a timeline of MRC research and discoveries*. And in true MRC advent calendar-style, throughout December we’ll be highlighting a different discovery each day – let the countdown to Christmas begin!

*A new discovery will be revealed each day in this post. Click the image below to view the complete timeline.

Timeline of MRC research and discoveries

22 December

1936: Nerve impulses are transmitted by chemicals

Professor Otto Loewi and Sir Henry Dale, Director of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research 1928 – 1932, showed that nerve impulses are transmitted by chemical signals and identified and isolated the first neurotransmitter; acetylcholine. When two nerve cells meet end-to-end, there is a gap between them called a synapse. Neurotransmitters, released from the end of one nerve, flow across this gap to the other nerve. This is how one nerve cell communicates with another, and is the basis of how nerve cells are connected in networks in the body. The pair won a Nobel prize for this work.

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Behind the picture: Marjory Stephenson and bacterial biochemistry

January 2015 marks 130 years since the birth of Marjory Stephenson, a researcher who pioneered the study of biochemistry in bacteria and was one of the first two women to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1945. Dr Jane Cope, former Director of the National Cancer Research Institute, shares some of her research into this relatively unknown scientist’s life.

Sketch of Marjory Stephenson

Marjory Stephenson (Image copyright: Principal and Fellows of Newnham College Cambridge)

Newnham College Cambridge is famous for its long corridor with ample space for portraits of distinguished alumnae. As an undergraduate in the 1970s I regularly passed this picture of a kindly looking woman whose eyes seemed to follow me. I thought of her as a benign presence watching over my busy student life. I looked at the name on the portrait ― Marjory Stephenson ― but it meant nothing to me.

After three years I was offered a PhD studentship in the Microbiology Unit of the Biochemistry Department in Cambridge, which was headed by Professor Ernest Gale. On arrival at his office I was amazed to see a copy of the same portrait on the wall.

I learned that she had founded the unit and had been Gale’s teacher and mentor. Her name cropped up again when I joined the Society for General Microbiology, which has a biennial memorial lecture in Marjory’s name. Later, I started to think about finding out more about her. Read more