Professor Martin H Johnson FRS, FRCOG, FmedSci, FRSB













1974-84:                                Lecturer in Department of Anatomy, University of Cambridge

1984-92:                                Reader in Experimental Embryology, University of Cambridge

1992-2012-:                          Professor of Reproductive Sciences, University of Cambridge

1995-99:                                Head of the Department of Anatomy, University of Cambridge

2012-:                                    Emeritus Professor of Reproductive Sciences, University of


1999-2004:                           Visiting Professor and Scholar, University of Sydney and St Paul’s                                                             College, Sydney, Australia.

1969-                                     Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge

My research interests have varied over the course of my career. Initially, I started my PhD under Bob Edwards studying immunological aspects of infertility. Then during a spell in the USA, my interests turned to implantation and the expression of histocompatibility antigens on embryonal carcinoma cells. On my return to the UK, I studied the expression of the same antigens on the early mouse embryo as way of establishing when paternal genes were expressed during development. This led me to study the molecular and cellular basis of early development in the mouse, which in turn resulted in the exposition of the polarisation hypothesis to explain cell diversification. We extended this idea to include other types of embryo including the marsupial embryo. Subsequently, I have shifted my research to include the use of transgenic animals to study regeneration in the central nervous system and the expression of erythropoietin, the study of the effects of oxygen free radicals on the development of early embryos and of circadian rhythms in the female reproductive tract, the study of the human embryo, and the legal, regulatory and ethical aspects of the latter. Currently, I am researching the history of IVF.


Undoubtedly, my career highlights include producing eight editions of Essential Reproduction (the latest out this March 2018); being awarded the 1993 King’s Fund Prize for Innovation in Medical Education; my editorship of Reproductive BioMedicine Online (since 2010) and its recently launched companion volume Reproductive BioMedicine and Society (since 2015); being invited to give the 2010 Nobel prize address by Bob Edwards due to his incapacity; being awarded in 1989 the Albert Brachet Prize and the Diploma of Laureate of the Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts and in 1993 being elected to the Society of Scholars of The Johns Hopkins University (both for my work on the polarisation hypothesis); being a member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (1993–1999) and specialist scientific advisor to the Joint Lords and Commons Committee scrutinizing the Draft Human Embryos and Tissue Bill (2007). In 2004 I was elected to a Fellowship of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, in 2012 to a Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and in 2014 to a Fellowship of the Royal Society.

But the highest light in my career has come from the many graduate students and colleagues with whom it has been my pleasure to work, including Alan Handyside, Peter Braude, Virginia Bolton, John Reeve, Tom Fleming, Bernard Maro, Carol Ziomek, Hester Pratt, Julia Chisholm, Sue Pickering, Evelyn Houliston, Sarah Howlett, Mohammed Nasr-Esfahani, Nikki Winston, Margot Day, Catherine Aiken, Hamid Dolatshad, Lesley Clayton, Jac Reeve, Sarah Gull, Jose McConnell, Caroline Vincent, Marc Osmond, Mark Sefton, Harry Goodall, Hilary Macqueen, Orla McGuiness, Natasha Theodosiou, Richard Smith, Gin Flach, Brendan Doe, Liz Campbell, Audrey Muggleton-Harris, Laura O’Hara, Annie Cant, Janet Currie, Martin George, Debbie Eager, Lynne Selwood, David Cook, Mike Berridge, Andrew Sharkey, Tim Cheek, Mike Sofroniew, Toby Bush, Mick Hastings, Jeremy Skepper, Peter Radcliffe, Peter Maxwell, Nick Holmes, John Aitken, Bobski Szulman, Richard Gardner, Janet Rossant, Jatzek Kubiak, Magdelana Zerncika-Goetz, Aga Jedrusik, Emlyn Parfitt, Jonathon van Blerkom, Anne Ferguson-Smith, Michael Edidin, David Billington, Gil Schultz, Ruth Fowler, Jacques Cohen, Caroline Blackwell,  Kerry Petersen, Kay Elder, Penny Henderson, Sarah Franklin and Nick Hopwood, and also being a fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge since 1969 including being the last Vice-Master and the first President of the College (2007-2011).



In the earliest part of my career, from the mid-1960s, the SRF (or SSF as it then was) was very important to me. Indeed I regularly attended its meetings and published in its journal (then the Journal of Reproduction and Fertility), and found much to influence my research. It was a great place to meet the leaders in the field. However, as my research interests took a more developmental turn during the late 1970s, I found the BSDB meetings catered better to my interests, indeed I became chair of that Society from 1984-1989. More recently, however I have attended some of the excellent summer meetings that the SRF used to hold, but the move to a major winter meeting does not suit me, as I tend to overwinter at my apartment in Las Palmas! In 1992 I was the Hammond lecturer of the Society and in 2014 I was awarded its Marshall medal, both great honours, for which I am truly grateful.