Former colleagues of the scientist credited with creating Dolly the Sheep have urged the Queen to strip him of his knighthood over claims he played a minor role in the cloning breakthrough.
Sir Ian Wilmut, 63, got a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List. Sir Ian, who worked at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh and is currently at the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM), got the award for services to science. He is best known as the creator of cloned sheep Dolly in 1996.
But now it has emerged four former employees of the Roslin Institute have signed a petition calling on the Queen to withdraw the honour.
In the petition to Buckingham Palace, they urged the Queen to “withhold, recall or reduce the Royal Assent from the knighthood of Professor Ian Wilmut”.
It states: “The undersigned believe that Professor Ian Wilmut may have conspired with others to obtain advantage and an honour to which he is not entitled should the true facts be known.”
The petition is signed by molecular biologist Prim Singh; Jeremy Brown, now based in Oakland, California; Edinburgh-based Pauline Ward, and Douglas Currie, of East Lothian.
Sir Ian’s former colleagues claim other scientists also support their objections to the honour.
Dr Singh, who now works in Germany, has a background of conflict with Prof Wilmut, having previously taken the Roslin Institute to an employment tribunal. The tribunal in Edinburgh ultimately ruled that Dr Singh was unfairly dismissed from the institute but rejected his claims that he had received racist treatment at the hands of Sir Ian.
During the long-running tribunal hearing in 2006, Sir Ian reportedly replied “yes” when asked if the statement “I did not create Dolly” was true. He was reported to have said that his colleague, Keith Campbell, deserved “66%” of the credit.
Sir Ian could not be contacted for comment about the petition yesterday. But earlier, he told the magazine Times Higher Education: “I am aware of the terms of the correspondence. I am aware also that the Queen’s private secretary has indicated that this is a matter in which Her Majesty would not intervene.”