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Ideas about heredity, genetics, and ‘medical genetics’ in Britain, 1900–1982

Leeming, William (2005) Ideas about heredity, genetics, and ‘medical genetics’ in Britain, 1900–1982. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 36 (3). pp. 538-558. ISSN 13698486

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2005.07.004


The aim of this paper is to understand how evolving ideas about heredity and genetics influenced new medical interests and practices and, eventually, the formation of ‘medical genetics’ as a medical specialism in Britain. I begin the paper by throwing highlight on the social and institutional changes through which these ideas passed. I argue that, with time, there was a decisive convergence in thought that combined ideas about the familial aspects of heredity and the health needs of populations with an omnibus ‘genetic’ approach to health and illness that focused on the structures and activities of chromosomes and genes in individuals. I show how this convergence in thought was spurred on, first, by innovations in genetic science and technology in the after 1960, and, second, by negotiated protocols and standards of medical practice worked out by bodies such as the relevant royal colleges, the linked associations and societies for medical professionals, affected training and research authorities, and the state. The notion of ‘medical genetics’ in Britain consequently gained a semblance of unanimity over its basic reference points and arrived at a meaning directly tributary to current acceptance of the term in the context of a medical specialism.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Heredity; Genetics; Medical Genetics; Professionalisation; Medical Specialisms in the UK.
Divisions: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 18 May 2016 15:33
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 20:02
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/857

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