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Papers of Dr James Harrison Renwick, research material

UGC 155/3
Part of
Papers of Dr James Harrison Renwick, 1926-1994, geneticist, University of Glasgow, Scotland
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About this work


The research material presented here records Renwick's gene mapping research, his key contribution to science and medicine carried out at the Galton Laboratory, University of Glasgow and Johns Hopkins, and latterly at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It is a very complete record, bringing together correspondence with other key figures, raw laboratory and computing data, and relevant published literature, filed project by project. It thus documents a notable contribution to one of the most important fields of late twentieth-century science and gives an excellent picture of how the field evolved.

This description is part of the main James Harrison Renwick collection which has been divided into the following sections, each with its own separate description:

  • UGC 155/1, biographical material;
  • UGC 155/2, University of Glasgow material;
  • UGC 155/3, research material;
  • UGC 155/4, publications;
  • UGC 155/5, material relating to lectures and conferences;
  • UGC 155/6, material relating to societies and organisations;
  • UGC 155/7, correspondence files.
  • A digitised copy is held by the Wellcome Library as part of Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics. Only the front page of publications have been digitised. Items restricted in accordance with Data Protection legislation have not been digitised. Items not digitised may be viewed in the searchroom at Archive Services, University of Glasgow. Please visit the Glasgow University Archive Services website or see the complete catalogue for full details.



    Physical description

    622 folders, 2 boxes, 14 small ringbinders, 3 notebooks, 1 jotter


    The great bulk of the material was found in Renwick's own labelled boxfiles. The boxfiles ran in a number of more or less coherent sequences and this arrangement is followed, as far as possible, in the presentation of the material below. Renwick's later research on analysis of causative factors in human malformations is very sparsely documented as a discrete body of material, with very little material at UGC 155/3/11. In some cases an ongoing research interest in an individual condition, for example, cataracts, is documented alongside the earlier data from the 1960s.

    Biographical note

    Renwick made a fundamental contribution to modern human genetics, in particular to the development of human gene mapping that paved the way for the Human Genome Project. For a period of some 15 years up to the early 1970s, he pioneered the use of genetic markers to map disease genes on human chromosomes, seeing this field develop from its infancy to a major international scientific endeavour. Working initially at the Galton Laboratory, University College London, with Professor Lionel Sharples Penrose, then at the University of Glasgow, and latterly at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, he also was involved in a major transatlantic collaboration on gene mapping with Professor Victor Almon McKusick of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA. Renwick's key role in this work was due to his expertise in three essential areas: the clinical assessment of the families with specific genetic disorders; the laboratory analysis of the genetic markers; and the mathematical and computing approaches to the data obtained. His work started at a time when there was virtually no information on mapping human genes, continuing to the point where the human gene map was sufficiently developed to allow planning of a complete map, and later sequence. In the early 1970s he changed direction and the later years of his career at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine were spent mainly on analysis of causative factors in human malformations. For a biography see the full James Harrison Renwick collection description.

    Copyright note

    Applications for permission to quote should be sent to: Duty Archivist, Archive Services, University of Glasgow, 13 Thurso Street, Glasgow, G11 6PE, or email


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