boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe

Drs. Anne McLaren, 80, and Donald Michie, 84, in crash

LONDON -- Dame Anne McLaren, a leading geneticist, and her former husband, artificial intelligence specialist Donald Michie, died in a car crash Sunday . Dr. McLaren was 80 and Dr. Michie was 84.

Their car veered off a highway while they traveled from Cambridge to their home in London, their son Jonathan Michie said.

One of Dr. McLaren's early achievements, in 1958, was the first successful birth of mice that had grown outside their mother's body as early embryos. That helped open the path for human in vitro treatment.

Dr. McLaren was a member of an independent committee appointed by the government to investigate new reproductive technologies after the birth of the world's first test-tube baby in England in 1978 and to make recommendations on the freezing and storage of human embryos and their use in research.

After six years of public debate, the panel's recommendations formed the basis of a 1990 act that stated embryos could be used for research only until 14 days old, the point at which a central nervous system starts to develop. The legislation allowed scientists to experiment on embryos for insight into five areas only: infertility, recurrent miscarriage, congenital diseases, embryo development, and contraception.

Queen Elizabeth named Dr. McLaren a dame commander of the British Empire in 1993, and she was a fellow of King's College and Christ College at the University of Cambridge.

Dr. Michie had worked as part of the British code-breaking group at Bletchley Park during World War II. He contributed to the effort to solve Tunny, a German teleprinter cipher.

He was appointed director of the University of Edinburgh's Department of Machine Intelligence and Perception when it was established in 1966 and was founder and editor in chief of the Machine Intelligence publication series.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Michie was chief scientist at the Turing Institute in Glasgow , where he was trying to develop computers that learn from experience -- a technology that could result in robots that adjust to changing circumstances.

Dr. Michie and Dr. McLaren worked together at University College London during the 1950s.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES