Hello Dolly

‘Dolly is extraordinary, yet she has been made manifest.’ Colin Tudge, Science Writer, 2001

‘Dolly, born in 1996, might be seen as the gilt on the gingerbread…’ Ian Wilmut

‘We fused that cultured cell with an egg from yet another ewe to ‘reconstruct’ an embryo which we transferred into the womb of a surrogate mother, where it developed to become a lamb. This was the lamb we called Dolly…her birth overturns one of the deepest dogmas of all in biology for, until the moment in February 1997 that we made her existence known through a brief ‘letter’ in the scientific journal Nature, most scientists simply did not believe that cloning in such a way, and from such a cell, was possible. Even afterwards, some doubted we had done what we claimed…So how did we come to do all this? If we simply wanted a good story, we could tell it as if Dolly was our destiny… I suppose there is a hint of destiny about all this. In truth, though, the outcome of science is not predestined. Luck plays a large part, and so does serendipity, which is something more than luck: unexpected, and unlooked-for happiness… Dolly seems a very ordinary sheep – just an amiable Finn-Dorset ewe – yet as all the world has acknowledged, if not entirely for the right reasons, she might reasonably claim to be the most extraordinary creature ever to be born.’ Ian Wilmut, The Importance of Being Dolly, The Second Creation: The Age of Biological Control by the scientists who cloned Dolly, Headline, 2001

She has walked from mythology

She has walked from mythology, science fiction,

clippety-copping on cloven hooves - but so mild,

called Dolly for God’s sake; who could hate

this creature - no matter what bent principle

brought her to the world, Earth’s dreaming ark.

How lightly she wears her stardom – celebrity;

munching grass, smiling at one and all -

even the journalists who call her names.

Gentleness is her defence - calmness

her disarmament; however incendiary

each red step she takes - her burning prints

where sparks fly, a smell of wool pervades;

there can be no fear of a sheep, except at night,

legendary eyes looming from darkness - scary.

‘Mammals are normally produced by the sexual route: an egg joins with a sperm, to form a new embryo. But in 1996 Keith Campbell and I, with our colleagues at Roslin Instutute and PPL, cloned Dolly from a cell that had been taken from the mammary gland of an old ewe, and then grown in culture. The ewe, as it happened, was long since dead.’ Ian Wilmut, The Importance of Being Dolly, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

As the light of a dead star still shines

As the light of a dead star still shines -

the poem of the Scottish Blackface ewe

was read from silence;

her script, embalmed

by science, preserved.

Until her voice spoke

through the mouth of another,

with no memory of being her.

Dolly was spun, knitted from the Universe

Dolly was spun, knitted from the Universe;

from the same materials as us – molecules,

stardust; and in the end, beyond all complexity,

experiment - sparked into spectacular existence

with the same everyday magic as ourselves;

every leaf or fish, animal that has ever been.

I did not dream of sheep

I did not dream of sheep, as scientists have dreamt

of molecules - dancing DNA. I do not even count

sheep if I cannot sleep - but kangaroos, ladybirds;

nothing woolly, not even a mammoth - for I have

had my fill of seeing sheep; sheep before the eyes

of the world. And the most amazing thing, really,

was her playing in the pen - love of being petted;

her gentleness, mild temper, amiability – she had

survived us, being more important than her origins.

She was Dolly, whatever our guddling in her genes.

Should she not have turned out blue, shining maybe;

or golden, with a fleece like the one Jason sought -

some were expecting that, two heads, pink hooves;

sheep equivalent of Frankenstein, demonic ‘Baaa’ -

it was her very ordinariness that shocked the world.

Dolly, Dolly, (the Sheep), give me your answer true

Dolly, Dolly, give me your answer true,

I’m half crazy over the creation of you -

It wasn’t a stylish marriage - of science

and art and courage - but you look neat,

upon four feet, more normally made by two…

Will cloned sheep lead to confused collies?”

Gillian K Ferguson, poet and journalist

Note from the author
exploring the project

    Gene Story
    Romantic Science
    Some Special Genes
        The Art of Cloning
        Hello Dolly
        The World’s First
        Celebrity Sheep
        Human Cloning
        Nature & Nurture
    X & Y

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