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Malcolm Andrew Ferguson-Smith, b.1931.

Glasgow University Archives. Reference code: GB 0248 UGC 188

Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of M.A. Ferguson-Smith, by T.E. Powell and S.M. Coleman.

Outline of career

Malcolm Andrew Ferguson-Smith graduated in medicine from Glasgow University in 1955 and held posts at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, 1955-1958. While undertaking postgraduate training in pathology he was introduced to research on sex chromatin under Bernard Lennox. Their buccal smear surveys revealed for the first time the high frequency of Klinefelter's Syndrome among subfertile males and those with learning difficulties. Ferguson-Smith continued his research as Fellow in Medicine at the School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, working on chromosomes with V.A. McKusick, for nearly three years from 1959. Here he established the first human chromosome diagnostic laboratory in the USA and undertook cytogenetic research into the Turner Syndrome and true hermaphroditism.

Ferguson-Smith returned to the Department of Genetics at Glasgow University in 1961. He was appointed successively Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader, becoming the first Burton Professor of Medical Genetics in 1973. His duties included teaching genetics to medical students and the establishment of a Regional Genetics Service for the West of Scotland. The clinical cytogenetics service provided opportunities for contributing to the human gene map. His work on mapping the Y-linked sex determinant in XX males led to the isolation of the mammalian sex determining gene twenty-five years later. The work on translocations in pachytene, gene mapping through chromosome deletion and by in situ hybridisation proved to be the first descriptions in the human genetics literature. He also participated in all eleven international Human Gene Mapping Workshops from 1973 to 1991.

In 1987 Ferguson-Smith was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Pathology at Cambridge University and Director of the East Anglia Regional Genetics Service. He led research on gene isolation, fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) techniques, reverse chromosome painting and studies in karyotype evolution using chromosome sorting and cross-species chromosome painting. He retired as Head of Pathology in 1998 and he and his team moved to the Cambridge University Department of Veterinary Medicine. In 2002 he established the Cambridge Resource Centre for Comparative Genomics, with Wellcome Trust support.

Description of archive

Dates of creation of material: 1957-2008. Extent: ca 1,600 items.

Biographical material includes biographical accounts of Ferguson-Smith's life and career to date, bibliography, correspondence relating to his early career, particularly concerning his return to Glasgow 1959-1963, and later material from his move to Cambridge as Professor of Pathology in 1987.

The medical genetics section of the archive is divided into three subsections. The first, Research and reports, principally relates to grants held by Ferguson-Smith, chiefly from the Medical Research Council, from 1961 to 1998. It includes grants for research into Multiple Self-healing Squamous Epithelioma (MSSE), a condition first identified by his father. Development of medical genetics at Glasgow, the second subsection, includes correspondence and memoranda relating to the development of the field as academic study and as clinical practice, including accommodation for Ferguson-Smith's department culminating in the Duncan Guthrie Institute of Medical Genetics in 1981. The third subsection, Development of medical genetics at Cambridge, is chiefly correspondence regarding the establishment of a Centre for Medical Genetics at Cambridge.

Correspondence is the largest component in the archive. The main sequences of letters 1959-2002 are organised chronologically by group of years and then alphabetically within each group. This correspondence records the full range of Ferguson-Smith's activities at Glasgow and from 1987 at Cambridge as university academic, as genetic consultant advising doctors and patients, and as director of a major medical genetics service serving millions of people. It is consequently very diverse. There is correspondence with scientific colleagues, including C.O. Carter, J.H. Edwards, A.E.H. Emery, C.E. Ford and V.A. McKusick; prospective and former researchers; university and hospital colleagues; doctors in general practice, patients and worried parents or would-be parents; charities supporting his research; societies and organisations, including the Clinical Genetics Society, the Royal College of Pathologists and alocal groups to whom Ferguson-Smith gave talks on medical genetics and genetic counselling; and so on. There is also administrative correspondence with the University of Glasgow, and later the University of Cambridge, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Greater Glasgow Health Board.

The publications record includes drafts of some of Ferguson-Smith's most notable works, including his first publication, 'Klinefelter's syndrome: frequency and testicular morphology in relation to nuclear sex', with B. Lennox et al. Lancet (1957) and Karyotype-phenotype correlations in gonadal dysgenesis and their bearing on the pathogenesis of malformations (1965), a paper rejected by Cytogenetics but accepted by the Journal of Medical Genetics which became a Citation Classic in 1991. There is also documentation relating to the textbook Essential Medical Genetics, Ferguson-Smith's chapter on Gender verification in editions of the Oxford Textbook of Sports Medicine, edited by M. Harries et al. and drafts of a number of his 1990s publications on reciprocal chromosome painting between species of animal. Also presented is editorial material, chiefly relating to the journal Prenatal Diagnosis, of which Ferguson-Smith was founder and Editor-in-Chief for 26 years. Lectures and meetings material includes some early lectures from Ferguson-Smith's period in the USA, 1959-1961, and a few of his many talks to local societies in the west of Scotland.

There are records relating to Ferguson-Smith's involvement with the Human Genome Organisation, HUGO, of which he was a founding and Executive Council member. Most of the material relates to the European Commission support for Single Chromosome Workshops. There is also significant material relating to the foundation of the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis in 1996. Papers relating to consultancies and collaborations date from after Ferguson-Smith's move to Cambridge and document his association with six commercial companies, chiefly in relation to work on chromosome paints. Documentation on gender verification in sport relates to Ferguson-Smith's involvement from 1969 in the debate about methods of testing athletesÿ sex. The bulk relates to his service on the International Amateur Athletic Federationÿs Working Group on Gender Verification, 1991-1999. BSE material principally relates to the Phillips Committee on which Ferguson-Smith served, and includes responses to the Committee's report. There is also material documenting his continuing interest in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies including BSE and its relation to vCJD.

Non-textual material includes historical colour educational films on genetics made at the Division of Medical Genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1960. Ferguson-Smith participated in their creation.