Everyone at the Roslin Institute is aware of what science hath wrought here, except the sheep, who remain sheepish.

Getting Dolly and the others to look alive for the countless camera crews requires giving them a concentrated feed for each photo op. They are getting overfed, says Ian Wilmut, who led the team that gave life to Dolly, the first clone ever produced from an adult mammal. "They need a rest," he said.

So does Wilmut, after his success with Dolly made him the focus of worldwide attention from scientists, a media feeding frenzy and philosophical debate about the nature of life and creation. This soft-spoken man, until just days ago an obscure researcher, suddenly is famous throughout the world -- not so much for doing science but for creating troubling new ethical issues.

"The social impact of this is actually out of proportion to the science," Wilmut said. "There's a frisson of excitement that this will happen with humans. But let's put it into context. What will this actually let us do that we couldn't do before?

"The immediate application will be in making genetic changes in livestock. We can use that to bring forward health products. That's not a new step. It's just that we'll be able to do it in a more efficient way."

He admits to being "very tired." It's been a little more than a week since the story broke, and it was detailed in the journal Nature, and for Wilmut, the period since is a blur. He can't remember which day he held his news conference: "It was Tuesday. Or maybe it was Wednesday." He can't remember the names of any of the reporters who interviewed him, or how many there were. He only remembers their country of origin, or their continent. It's "the one from Canada, the one from Australia, the three from North America who camped out for three days."

The aftermath of the Dolly project, he said, has been "sort of nonstop, a totally new experience for me. I now have a glimpse into the pace of life of a prime minister. I have minders. And they agree to interviews. I was told where to go when. In some ways that made it feasible to cope with it. I could not pretend that I do not enjoy the attention. But it's overwhelmed me. It's taken me by surprise. It worries me that people want to describe my home and involve my wife and neighbors.

"But I can't pretend that I don't enjoy this."

What he has not enjoyed is much of the side commentary about cloning and its possibilities. Indeed, some of it has pained him. "I was interviewed by a TV journalist whose name I genuinely have not caught," he said. "She was prepared to accept the notion of growing somebody for spare parts. I can't believe people would even think about that. I'm appalled. . . .

"One of the sad ones that upset me a bit, which people have been using, is allegedly a lady who misses her father and would be glad to give birth to him, to copy him. This was apparently given to a gentleman who I believe is a medical doctor. I think he should have given her some help rather than publicize her story."

Wilmut paused. The story reminds him how much he wishes his parents -- both teachers -- were alive to see what their son has achieved. "Your parents," he said. "You do miss them though, don't you?"

Dolly, depending on which commentator you read, is the biggest story of the year, the decade, even the century. Wilmut has seen himself compared with Galileo, with Copernicus, with Einstein, and at least once with Dr. Frankenstein. He also has been described as "self-deprecating," which he is not.

If there's a comparison to be made, he said, it's with Christiaan Barnard, the South African surgeon who performed the first heart transplant in 1967. "If you link together the biological impact and the social impact, the nearest example I can think of is" Barnard's transplant, he said.

"In those days, there was a very emotional side to messing around with the heart," he said. The same is true, he said, for messing around with cells, with DNA, with cloning. Indeed, he and his colleagues have attempted to come up with other words for cloning beside cloning -- embryo multiplication, for example. But, he said, "they just haven't worked."

So cloning it is, notwithstanding the inevitable leap of imagination to experimentation with human cloning, which Wilmut would be happy to see banned everywhere, as it is in Britain. "Just so long as they don't throw the baby out with the bath water," he said.

The "baby," for Wilmut, is not cloning per se. He says he does not clone for the sake of cloning. What he's been seeking in his career in science is just "a more efficient way," "a better way," to manipulate genes in animals.

Wilmut is a slight man who at 52 could pass for a decade younger because he is extremely fit as a result of country walking. With his short beard, thinning hair, piercing eyes and controlled manner, he could be someone's sympathetic psychiatrist, except that his hands tremble a bit as he speaks, perhaps because of his weariness.

The origin of Wilmut's interest in animals was his desire, as an adolescent, to be in the outdoors. He still has that desire and lives 20 miles out in the Scottish countryside with his dog and his wife. Working with animals, he believed, would provide him with a career in the fields. Growing up near Coventry, England, he was not exposed to farms and farming so he sought a university with a good agricultural program, found Nottingham University and worked on farms during his summer vacations. "I was hopeless on tractors," he recalled, "but I liked working with dairy cows so I went down an animal science route."

The summer after graduating he got a job in an animal science laboratory associated with Cambridge University. The professor who headed the lab "was a great guy to be working for, a very stimulating sort of teacher, so I asked to go back {to Cambridge} and do a PhD with him. That's what got me started."

Cambridge University has been the site of much of the seminal work of molecular biology, most notably the discovery of the double helix -- the structure of DNA -- by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953.

The subject of Wilmut's dissertation was the freezing of bull semen. His postdoctoral research was on freezing embryos. "We were the first people to produce a calf from a frozen embryo," he said, pointing at a picture of Frosty, the result of the experiment, displayed prominently in his office.

The Roslin Institute, a private company about 10 miles south of Edinburgh, was formally organized under that name only four years ago. But its precursor research institutions have been around since the 1970s, with a variety of names and a variety of sponsorships, and the same basic mission: to understand and improve the productivity, breeding and welfare of farm animals. When Wilmut arrived, in 1973, it was called the Animal Breeding Research Station.

His first project was an attempt to understand why so many embryos formed in mating died before birth. "I wanted to see if we could reduce that loss," he said.

In 1983, he moved over to an already existing institute project on the transfer of genes in livestock. His mission was to "try to come up with better methods" for making precise modifications in DNA before fusing it with a recipient cell, for manipulating the genes to produce desired traits. That, in turn, would produce embryos and animals with desired characteristics, for producing a certain kind of cow with a certain kind of milk, which might contain a certain kind of protein useful in treating human disease.

While researchers often cite medicines for humans as an outcome of this science, they also are interested in what Wilmut has described as the "cloning of elite animals" -- more efficient producers of meat or milk that, in time, would raise the performance of an entire "national herd."

By 1987, Wilmut and his colleagues were at work on the technique that would bring Dolly -- the first truly cloned mammal -- into the world. Specifically, the technique involved putting a cell from a sheep's udder to sleep, starving it of nutrients to stop its otherwise inexorable development into what it was intended to be so it can be something else. In this case, scientists turned off the genes that carried instructions to make an udder and turned on genes that allowed the cell to develop into a whole animal. When fused with a waiting egg cell, stripped of its own genetic instructions, it became that animal. It became its clone.

It wasn't a real secret, said Wilmut. The government, which was providing some of the funding, knew "exactly what we were doing." But, he said, it had to be kept secret from the world at large, in part so the institute could claim a patent for it and in part because the journal Nature, one of the world's most prestigious scientific publications, will not accept an article if its contents already have been trumpeted in the media. Under British law, Wilmut said, a new technique can lose its patentability if its creator puts it into the realm of general public knowledge before submitting a patent claim. In effect, it becomes public property. As for the Nature article, "it is the pinnacle of a career," he said, and he and his colleagues were not about to blow it.

Wilmut knows his life will never be the same. Even as he says he's "just got to get back to work," he is scheduling his testimony for the House of Commons and the U.S. Congress and contemplating a book on his research, one that everyone can understand.

This small village -- a few thousand folks at best -- may never be the same either. A half mile down the road from the Roslin Institute is the 13th-century Rosslyn Chapel. It is pretty and quiet, a refuge from modern reality. Legend has it that the Holy Grail was there.

But when wandering through it these days, the first feature the man who runs it wants to point out is one of the pillars, one wrapped in an ornate stone carving.

"See that," said Stuart Beatty, who's raising money for restoration. "Take a good look at that carving. It's a double helix. What do you think of that?"

CAPTION: IAN WILMUT