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Medical Research Council Blood Group Unit (1935-1995)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 SA/BGU
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Medical Research Council Blood Group Unit (1935-1995)
Date(s): 1927-1993
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 65 boxes, 1 oversize box
Name of creator(s): Medical Research Council Blood Group Unit


Administrative/Biographical history:

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.


Scope and content/abstract:

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 Medical Research Council Blood Group Unit staff at work and play, 1927-[1980s].

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

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/An/a; Chimeras and Mosaics; Monosomy-7); G. Linkage; H. Pedigrees; J. Lectures and Meetings; K. Publications; L. Photographs

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, by prior appointment with the Archivist after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking. Please note that file F.1/39/3 is closed until January 2056. Access to several files is restricted as they contain sensitive personal data (the relevant files are marked `Restricted Access' in the detailed list).

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Hard-copy catalogue available in Wellcome Library.

Collection level description available on-line on the Wellcome Library website

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

These records were given to the Wellcome Library by Dr Patricia Tippett of the Medical Research Council 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).

Allied Materials

Related material:

Held by Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library: 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); and 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: Public Record Office, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU holds 70 files of correspondence, papers, reports and lecture notes for the Medical Research Council Blood Group Unit, 1936-1994 (PRO reference FD 8).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

R R Race and R Sanger, Blood Groups in Man (Blackwell Scientific Publications, 6th ed, 1975).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Catalogued by Helen Wakely, Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
August 2000, revised December 2000

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