Historicising Dolly: an Edinburgh-centred case study of the emergence of animal biotechnology

BBSRC and The University of Edinburgh


'Historicising Dolly’ was a project conducted in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Edinburgh.

Its goal was to place the 1996 cloning of Dolly the sheep in its historical context. Building on the newly-available archives of the Roslin Institute, where Dolly was cloned, we pursued several research trajectories. We explored the lineage of the cloning experiment within the agricultural research programme at Roslin and in the UK; the importance of a genetic engineering agenda in the genesis of Dolly; the difficult institutional history of the Roslin’s precursor bodies in the political turmoil of 1980s Britain; and Dolly’s legacy, both locally and within the global biosciences.


The project ran between July 2015 and December 2016. As a result of it, we have published two peer-reviewed articles, held an international workshop on the history of farm animal research, and organised public events in Edinburgh.

We have also produced a policy report for BBSRC and held a Collective Memory Event, where the different scientists and stakeholders involved in the cloning of Dolly came together to share their recollections. The project attracted the attention of newspapersradio and blogs with occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Dolly’s birth, in 2016.

All outcomes are available below:  

  1. García-Sancho M (2015) 'Animal breeding in the age of biotechnology: the investigative pathway behind the cloning of Dolly the sheep', History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 37(3): 282-304.
  2. Myelnikov, D & García-Sancho, M (eds) 2017, Dolly at Roslin: A Collective Memory Event (Edinburgh).
  3. García-Sancho M, Myelnikov D & Lowe J, 2017, The Invisible History of the Visible Sheep: How a Look at the Past may Broaden our View of the Legacy of Dolly (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council – BBSRC, UK).
  4. Myelnikov D (2017) ‘Cuts and the cutting edge: British science funding and the making of animal biotechnology in 1980s Edinburgh,’ British Journal for the History of Science, 50(4): 701-728.