Medical Research Council Blood Group Unit (1935-1995)

  • MRC Blood Group Unit (1935-1995)
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The records cover the period 1927-1993, although the majority date from the 1940s to the 1970s. Notable series include general correspondence with colleagues world-wide, 1935-1984; Dr Race's research papers on human genetic markers, late 1930s/early 1940s; files of correspondence, research notes, pedigrees etc. on blood grouping investigations, 1942-1993; and a comprehensive collection of photographs recording BGU staff at work and play, 1927-[1980s].

A box file of loose photographs of Robert Race with colleagues, friends, and family have been added to the collection in January 2013, but are not yet catalogued.



Physical description

65 boxes 1 o/s folder


By section as follows:

A. Galton Lecture 1937;

B. Race and Sanger Papers;

C. Rh Notation;

D. BGU Laboratory Procedures;

E. General Correspondence;

F. Blood Group Investigations (Rh and LW; Moores; Xg and 12E7 [CD99]; MN; ABO(H); P; Lu; Colton; Di; Do; Duffy; Ge; HDN; Kell; Kidd; Lewis; Rd; Yt; Private/Ana; Chimeras and Mosaics; Monosomy-7);

G. Linkage;

H. Pedigrees;

J. Lectures and Meetings;

K. Publications;

L. Photographs

Acquisition note

These records were given to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre (known as Archives and Manuscripts following its merger with Western Manuscripts in July 2000) by Dr Patricia Tippett of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Blood Group Unit in April 1996 (Acc No 628) and March 1998 (Acc No 753), and by the Medical Research Council in May 1996 (Acc No 635).

Accession 1974 was received in January 2013 from the Medical Research Council and is not yet catalogued.

Biographical note

The MRC Blood Group Unit succeeded the Galton Laboratory Serum Unit set up in 1935 under the direction of Professor (later Sir) Ronald Fisher and financed through the Medical Research Council by the Rockefeller Foundation. The Serum Unit was based at University College, London, and re-located to Cambridge during the Second World War. In 1946, the Unit was reconstituted at the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine as the Blood Group Research Unit, under the directorship of Dr Robert Race.

The need for safe transfusion therapy intensified blood group research in the run-up to the Second World War, and in 1940 Landsteiner and Wiener discovered the Rh factor, building on foundations laid by Levine and Stetson in 1939. From 1946 the MRC Blood Group Unit acquired an international reputation in the highly specialised field of haematology, extending its work in 1965 into the genetics of blood groups. Upon the retirement of Dr Race in 1973, Dr Ruth Sanger became director of the Unit. Under Dr Sanger's direction, the Unit continued to make a unique contribution to the identification of blood groups, and to the applications of the blood group systems to the problems of human genetics. In 1983, upon the retirement of Dr Sanger, Dr Patricia Tippett became director. The MRC Blood Group Unit moved from the Lister Institute to premises at University College, London in 1975. It was disbanded in September 1995, although its work continues in other research centres.

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

Papers of AE Mourant (1904-1994) relating to his work in the Blood Group Reference Laboratory etc. (PP/AEM);

records on the arrangement of and publicity for the Blood Transfusion Service, 1943-1949 (GC/107);

the papers of Dame Janet Vaughan (1899-1993) on work with the Emergency Blood Transfusion Service, 1939 (GC/186);

records of transfusions by the British Red Cross Society Blood Transfusion Service, 1929-1936 (GC/261);

papers relating to blood transfusion during World War II in the Royal Army Medical Corps "Muniments Collection" (RAMC).

See also Sources Leaflet no 52 "Blood".

Material held elsewhere:

The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU hold 70 files of correspondence, papers, reports and lecture notes for the Medical Research Council Blood Group Unit, 1936-1994 (PRO reference FD 8).

Terms of use

This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

Location of duplicates

A digitised copy is held by Wellcome Collection as part of Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics.



AGM Annual General Meeting

BGU Blood Group Unit

BMJ British Medical Journal

(c) colour

CMAC Contemporary Medical Archives Centre

MRC Medical Research Council

n.d. not dated

UCL University College London

Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores
    RestrictedCan't be requested

Permanent link


Accession number

  • 628
  • 635
  • 753
  • 1974