Human Genetics

, 118:141 | Cite as

William Bateson, human genetics and medicine

  • Peter S. Harper
Historical & Personal Perspectives


The importance of human genetics in the work of William Bateson (1861–1926) and in his promotion of Mendelism in the decade following the 1900 rediscovery of Mendel’s work is described. Bateson had close contacts with clinicians interested in inherited disorders, notably Archibald Garrod, to whom he suggested the recessive inheritance of alkaptonuria, and the ophthalmologist Edward Nettleship, and he lectured extensively to medical groups. Bateson’s views on human inheritance were far sighted and cautious. Not only should he be regarded as one of the founders of human genetics, but human genetics itself should be seen as a key element of the foundations of mendelian inheritance, not simply a later development from knowledge gained by study of other species.


Mendelian Inheritance Myotonic Dystrophy Alkaptonuria Brachydactyly Maternal Family History 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I should like to express my thanks to the staff of the library and archive of the John Innes Centre, Colney, Norwich, UK, especially to Kenneth Dick, librarian, for help in consulting, copying and scanning documents and for allowing their reproduction. I am also grateful to Mrs Rosemary Harvey, former Archivist of the John Innes Centre, for allowing access to her biography of Bateson prior to its formal publication and for much valuable advice. Both she and Dr Alan Rushton, New Jersey, provided helpful comments on this paper, though I myself remain responsible for any errors or misinterpretations.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Medical GeneticsCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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