Avrion Mitchison

Avrion Mitchison bigraphy, stories - Zoologists

Avrion Mitchison : biography

5 May 1928 –

The Honourable (Nicholas) Avrion "Av" Mitchison FRS (born 5 May 1928) is a British zoologist and immunologist.


Mitchison was born in 1928, the son of the Labour politician Dick Mitchison (Baron Mitchison of Carradale in the County of Argyll, who died 1970) and his wife, the writer Naomi (née Haldane). His uncle was the biologist J.B.S. Haldane and his grandfather the physiologist John Scott Haldane. His elder brothers are the bacteriologist Denis Mitchison and the zoologist Murdoch Mitchison.

Professor the Honourable Avrion Mitchison FRS is married to Lorna Margaret Martin, daughter of Maj-Gen John Simson Stuart Martin, CSI. They have five children, Tim, Matthew, Mary, Hannah and Ellen. Two are cell biologists Tim Mitchison and Hannah M. Mitchison.

He was educated at Leighton Park School. He received his PhD at New College, Oxford with Nobelist Sir Peter Medawar. This was followed by a long career as Professor of Zoology at University College London, where his uncle J.B.S. Haldane taught, at the National Institute of Medical Research at Mill Hill and as Director of a Rheumatology Institute in Germany. He is currently a Professor Emeritus at University College London.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1967. He is also a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. Among many honors he holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Weizmann Institute and won the Sandoz Prize in Basic Immunology.

Mitchison’s contributions to immunology include the discovery of both low dose and high dose tolerance for a single antigen, a surprising result in the context of basic clonal selection theory, but which can be understood in the context of immune network theory.