Professor of anatomy and stem cell pioneer;

Born: September 29, 1942; Died: August 11, 2013.

ProfESSOR Matthew Kaufman, who has died aged 70, was a pioneering academic whose work on embryonic stem cells gave medicine one of its most significant advances.

The breakthrough he and a colleague made, in becoming the first to culture and cultivate embryonic stem (ES) cells in mice, laid the foundations for studies in stem cell biology, chimera formation and cloning.

It was a discovery that ultimately generated new hope for the repair and replacement of damaged tissue, work on which is ongoing at Cambridge University where Prof Kaufman collaborated with Martin Evans on the research more than 30 years ago.

While Dr Evans went on to explore and develop the use of ES cells, later receiving the Nobel Prize for medicine, his colleague became a world authority mouse embryology and produced The Atlas of Mouse Development, regarded internationally as the standard textbook on the subject.

Although born in London, the launchpad for his career was Scotland, where he qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University in 1967. After working in Birmingham and Luton he returned to Edinburgh spending a year in obstetrics, at the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, before choosing a future in academia.

Drawn to reproductive biology, he worked on aspects of IVF as a research associate at the Institute of Animal Genetics at Edinburgh University but moved to Cambridge to do his PhD in physiology.

He remained there from 1970 until 1985, apart from two years in Israel, supported by Royal Society and Medical Research Council fellowships, when he worked on parthenogenesis - virgin birth - in mice.

Prof Kaufmann was a demonstrator, then lecturer, in Cambridge University's anatomy department, becoming a fellow and director of studies in medicine and a fellow and lecturer in anatomy at King's College.

Described by his friend Emeritus Professor Jonathan Bard as an extremely skilful embryologist, he was able to dissect, culture and manipulate mouse embryos at their earliest stages - skills needed when, in 1981, he collaborated with Dr Martin Evans to provide the methodology for the establishment for the first time of pluripotential stem cells in tissue culture.

They were initially named EK (Evans-Kaufman) cells, before becoming known as ES cells, but before their longer-term significance was realised, Prof Kaufman moved on to his real love, mouse developmental anatomy.

"The success of mouse ES cell technology naturally led to attempts to obtain human ES cells so that they could be used to repair and replace faulty tissues," said Prof Bard.

"The difficulties in doing this are formidable and reaching the stage where they are available has taken more than a decade but the field is now confident that the basics are now in place for a new generation of therapeutic treatments.

"It is rare that pure research in the lab leads to a single major technological industry. The distinction of the work of Matthew Kaufman and those mouse embryologists in the late 1970s is that it led to two such advances, with the second taking more than 30 years to achieve. It is sad that Prof Kaufman, trained as a doctor, did not live to see the full medical fruits of his early work."

He moved to Edinburgh University in 1985, as professor of anatomy and head of department, where he continued to make a significant contribution to developmental biology.

Prof Kaufmann worked with computer scientists to prepare 3-D reconstructions of many of the stages of mouse development, illustrated in his Atlas, published in 1992 and which has gone through at least eight editions.

He also explored both normal embryonic development and abnormalities that occur when an embryo is subjected to chromosomal disorders and stress factors such as alcohol, winning the Evian Health Award for research into the effects of alcohol on embryonic development.

Over his career he had authored more than 250 papers and at least a dozen books and his major contributions to the understanding and teaching of mouse embryology were recognised when he was made an honorary research fellow of leading genetic research facility, the Jackson Laboratory in Maine, United States, in 2006.

Two years later he was elected Emeritus Professor of anatomy in 2008. He continued to be in demand as an expert on mouse embryology and continued to write.

A former president of Edinburgh's Royal Medical Society, he wrote numerous papers and six books on various aspects of medical history - from surgeons at war, to musket ball and sabre injuries, the history of the Edinburgh Phrenological Society, plus works on Dr John Barclay, extra-mural teacher of Human and Comparative Anatomy in Edinburgh during the late 18th and early 19th century, and pioneering Scots surgeon Robert Liston.

Prof Kaufmann was married to Claire, a staff nurse he met whilst working in Luton. He introduced her to his love of vintage cars, picking her up on an early date in an Armstrong Siddeley. Both passions survived down the years, though he moved on to a 1934 Lagonda Rapier which he lovingly converted from a two-seater to four-seat family tourer, fashioning the ash bodywork himself and regularly taking it for a spin sporting his flying helmet.

He is survived by Claire, his sons Simon and David and grandchildren Angus and Georgia.

Alison Shaw