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Records of British Human Geneticists

The Cardiff University Genetics Archives Project; Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University

The personal scientific records of workers in human and medical genetics form a key element in the history of the field, but in contrast to basic molecular biology, there have been no initiatives until recently to ensure they are preserved.

In 2006-2009 a collaborative venture between the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists (University of Bath) and Professor Peter Harper, largely funded by the Wellcome Trust, ensured three collections of significant figures (J.H Renwick, C.A.B Smith, M.A Ferguson-Smith) were catalogued, and Dr Powell, then Senior Archivist of the NCUACS, began to survey archives in this field.

With the closure of NCUACS at the end of 2009, Peter Keelan, Head of Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) at Cardiff University headed a new venture to ensure that the work of cataloguing archives of eminent human and medical geneticists could be continued. In November 2009 the Research Resources in Medical History strand of Wellcome Trust funding gave nearly £100,000 to SCOLAR to support a project to catalogue the archives of medical geneticists John Edwards and George Fraser, and the Medical Research Council's Unit of Human Biochemical Genetics at the Galton Laboratory; and to safeguard the archives, mostly in electronic form, of the Cardiff University clinical geneticist Peter Harper.

The project, under the title The Cardiff University Genetics Archive Project, began at Cardiff University in February 2010, with its main aims to preserve and make accessible important records of this area of this study of profound impact on human health and scientific understanding. Areas covered of particular significance include aspects of human and medical genetics such as clinical genetics, population genetics, cytogenetics, enzyme polymorphisms and the foundations of molecular medicine. The project was successfully completed in 2013.

Other record sets of UK human geneticists include the archive of Sir Walter and Lady Julia Bodmer (in progress at Bodleian Library, Oxford), in addition to the major initiative by Wellcome Library, The Makers of Modern Genetics (see below).

The Cardiff University Genetics Records Project Team.
From left: Tim Powell, Peter Keelan, Peter Harper, Simon Coleman