Peter Medawar (1915-87)
Medawar was a Brazilian-born British scientist interested in the relationship of biology and medicine. He is best known for his work on how the immune system rejects or accepts tissue transplants.
A single incident can have an enormous impact on the direction of research and this was certainly the case for Medawar. A bomber crashed near his house in 1941, severely burning the pilot. Medawar took an interest in the pilot's fate, and so great was this interest that when a colleague suggested he use his talents to find a way to cover the exposed flesh of the burn victim Medawar did so.
He worked extensively on tissue grafting during the Second World War, teaming up with Frank Macfarlane Burnet from 1949. They eventually discovered that skin grafts were rejected by an immunological process.
He shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Burnet in 1960 and received a knighthood in 1965. Medawar's work with Burnet transformed the nature of transplant surgery.
Related Themes and Topics
J Le Fanu, The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine (London: Little, Brown and Company, 1999)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (OUP, 2005)