Human Heredity in the Twentieth Century by Bernd Gausemeier

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By Bernd Gausemeier

The essays during this assortment research how human heredity used to be understood among the top of the 1st global struggle and the early Seventies. The members discover the interplay of technology, medication and society in choosing how heredity used to be seen the world over through the politically turbulent years of the 20 th century.

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Extra resources for Human Heredity in the Twentieth Century

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Twin research, therefore, was not simply a complement but an alternative to existing genealogical and statistical methods. As it seemed impossible to determine exact Mendelian ratios for most assumedly hereditary traits, it was only reasonable to concentrate on demonstrating heritability, especially in contested cases. It is therefore no coincidence that one of the first large-scale twin studies addressed the disputed question of TB susceptibility. 38 Since his appointment as department head at KWIA in 1927, Verschuer quickly developed the institute into the leading centre for twin studies.

His study was based on the assumption that TB was unquestionably a social disease. For this reason, he held that the sample for a study on TB should be socially representative. This postulate alone spoke against the use of hospital records; the population investigated by Pearson, for example, was strictly working class. Moreover, hospital populations were hopelessly selective. They always exhibited an accumulation of certain diseases, usually in their most severe forms. 14 Truly scientific statistics on problems of pathological heredity was possible only through the analysis of complete average populations.

H. Morgan, who regarded the idea as ‘excellent’ and suggested that it should be ‘started and carried out in connection with some established laboratory such as that at Cold Spring Harbor’. 17 Eddy approached Laughlin about establishing a clinic that would work closely with the ERO, whereupon Laughlin promptly drafted an ‘Outline of the Organization, Staff and Service, Proposed for “The Clinic of Human Heredity”’ and presented it to John C. Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, DC in July 1937.

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