John Wilfred Jenkinson (1871–1915) was a pioneer in the field of comparative developmental biology and one of the first to introduce experimental embryology to the UK at the start of the 20th century. He originally studied Classics as an undergraduate student at Oxford, before switching his attention to Zoology under the guidance of W. F. R. Weldon at University College London. He also travelled to Utrecht in the Netherlands, to work with Hubrecht, and was exposed to new methods and approaches in experimental embryology. In 1905, he was appointed the first lecturer in Embryology at the University of Oxford in England.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, Jenkinson joined the Oxford Volunteer Training Corps. In January 1915 he was assigned to the 12th Worcestershire Regiment and was soon promoted to the rank of Captain. Jenkinson left England with his Regiment in May, posted to the Dardanelles in Turkey. On 4 June 1915, just days after arriving on the Gallipoli peninsula, Jenkinson was killed. After Jenkinson's death at Gallipoli in June 1915, the University of Oxford established the John Wilfred Jenkinson Lectureship in his memory. The original statutes required the lecturer or lecturers, appointed annually, to deliver “one or more lectures or lecture demonstrations on comparative or experimental embryology”.
Each year, a Board of Electors selects one or two Jenkinson Lecturers who are invited to Oxford to present a lecture in the broad area of developmental biology. The list of Jenkinson Lecturers includes many distinguished names, including Nobel Laureates (marked with *).
The lecturers are elected by an electoral board consisting of: the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford; the Rector of Exeter College, Oxford; the Regius Professor of Medicine; the Linacre Professor of Zoology; the Waynflete Professor of Physiology; Dr. Lee's Professor of Anatomy; and a member of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Board elected by that board.