Genetics has become progressively important for medicine during the last 50 years — primarily for biomedical research, but also clinically. Consequently the history of genetics is bound to play an important role in the history of contemporary medicine, and historical studies of genetics in different varieties do in fact take up much of the shelf space in libraries of the history of medicine.

There are also a number of associations and networks of interest. One of these is the Genetics and Medicine Historical Network (GMHN), founded in 2002 by medical geneticist Peter Harper at Prifysgol Caerdydd (Cardiff University), with the original aim to help preserve sources for the documentation of human/medical genetics, particularly in the UK.

In 2005 the GMHN received a three-year Wellcome Trust grant, primarily for “identifying and conserving key written records, including personal scientific records of workers, records of societies and institutions, and images”. In other words, basically to build up a history of human genetics archive. They are also actively promoting interviews with older medical geneticists in collaboration with the Oral History of Human Genetics Project. So far, however, they have not followed the advice from some of their foreign colleagues to add the acquisition of the material culture of genetics to the project aims. But this may come at a later stage, particularly if the Wellcome Trust prolongs the grant.

The third network meeting, organised by Toine Pieters (Amsterdam) will be held in Barcelona, 1-3 June 2008. Read more about it in the last GMHN Newsletter (#11) here.

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