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Mourant, Arthur Ernest (1904-1994)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 PP/AEM
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Mourant, Arthur Ernest (1904-1994)
Date(s): 1919-1996
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 47 boxes
Name of creator(s): Mourant | Arthur Ernest | 1904-1994 | haematologist and geologist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Mourant was born on 11 April in 1904 in Jersey. He was educated at Victoria College, Jersey before winning a King Charles I Scholarship to Exeter College Oxford where he read Chemistry. He graduated with a first class degree in Chemistry (taking crystallography as his special subject) and in 1926 went on to do research under J.A. Douglas on the geology of the Channel Islands (D.Phil. 1931). In 1928 he was appointed Demonstrator in Geology at Leeds University and the following year was given a place on the Geological Survey of Great Britain mapping coal measures in Lancashire. He left in 1931. Mourant's interest in geology continued throughout his life and he continued to publish articles on geology alongside haematological and medical publications.

Mourant returned to Jersey and in 1933 established the Jersey Chemical Pathology Laboratory, which he ran for five years. He then returned to London, intending to pursue a career as a psychoanalyst. As part of the necessary preparation he underwent psychoanalysis himself and in 1939 began medical training at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, London. On the outbreak of war Mourant continued his medical training but when Jersey was occupied by the Germans in 1940 he lost contact with his family who remained on the island. During the period 1940-1945 Mourant played an active role in Channel Island exile groups.

Mourant graduated B.M. and B.Ch. in 1943 and held a number of House posts before his appointment in 1944 as Medical Officer in the National Blood Transfusion Service. Mourant had developed an interest in haematology during his medical training and during this period pursued research into blood serum. He discovered the antibody anti-e, thus helping to establish the three-factor theory of the Rhesus system, and the Lewis factor and shared in the discovery of the Kell factor. With R.R. Race and R.R.A. Coombs he went on to develop the antiglobulin test.

In 1945 Mourant took up a post as Medical Officer with the Galton Laboratory Serum Unit before in 1946 being appointed Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC)'s newly established Blood Group Reference Laboratory, based at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, London. Mourant held this post to 1965. The Laboratory received international recognition in 1952 when the World Health Organisation named it as their International Blood Group Reference Laboratory. Mourant's interests were increasingly anthropological and his work on human blood group distribution world-wide saw publication of two major books: in 1953 the pioneering work The Distribution of Human Blood Groups and other Biochemical Polymorphisms and in 1958 The ABO Blood Groups and Maps of World Distribution. In 1952 Mourant was appointed Honorary Advisor (de facto Director) of the newly established Nuffield Blood Group Centre. It was administered by and housed in the Royal Anthropological Institute, reporting to its Blood Group Committee. From 1952 to 1962 the Centre was funded by the Nuffield Foundation but the MRC then took over responsibility for financing the Centre, which changed its name to the Anthropological Blood Group Centre.

In September 1965 Mourant retired from the Directorship of the Blood Group Reference Laboratory to become Head of the MRC's newly established Serological Population Genetics Laboratory (SPGL). This was established by the MRC as a unit that would combine the testing work undertaken in the Blood Group Reference Laboratory with the statistical and bibliographical work of the Anthropological Blood Group Centre, which was then amalgamated into the SPGL. The work of the SPGL was thus divided between two sections. The first was a testing laboratory, working principally for the Human Adaptability Section of the International Biological Programme (IBP). The second comprised the Anthropological Blood Group Centre that had been transferred to the SPGL, concentrating on preparing a second edition of The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups. The SPGL was based in premises rented by St Bartholomew's Hospital, London.

In 1971 the MRC announced that it was to close the SPGL. However, Mourant was anxious that the SPGL complete its work on The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups and other projects, including its work for the IBP. The MRC agreed to extend its support of the work on the distribution of human blood groups to 1973. Through assiduous fund-raising Mourant found support for the other projects and was able to see them through to completion. The SPGL finally closed in 1976. Mourant retired to the family home in Jersey where he continued to publish on haematology and physical anthropology as well as geology. Mourant was elected FRS in 1966. He died on 29 August 1994.


Scope and content/abstract:

Biographical material includes the draft of Mourant's autobiography, Blood and Stones published after his death in 1995, together with the correspondence and papers Mourant assembled while writing it. There is also documentation of Mourant's education at Victoria College Jersey and at Exeter College Oxford. The latter includes notes on lectures 1922 - ca 1926. Documentation of Mourant's career, honours and awards is patchy, although there is material relating to his search for employment in the early 1930s. There are pocket diaries spanning 1915-1982, with a fairly continuous sequence 1922-1961. Biographical material also includes extensive family and personal correspondence, much of which dates from or relates to the German occupation of Jersey or shortly thereafter. Mourant's other documented interests include his membership of the Methodist Church and his political affiliations, the League of Nations Union in particular.

There is a little material relating to Mourant's early career with the Geological Survey 1929-1931, miscellaneous material relating to Mourant's service with the MRC's Blood Group Reference Laboratory at the Lister Institute and the Nuffield (later Anthropological) Blood Group Centre at the Royal Anthropological Institute, London, and more extensive but uneven coverage of the Serological Population Genetics Laboratory. Although there is some documentation of the foundation of the Laboratory 1964-1965 and of its staff, the surviving material consists chiefly of correspondence and papers relating to Mourant's largely successful efforts to find continued funding for the Laboratory 1969-1977. Haematological research material, though not extensive, covers Mourant's work in a number of areas from research on blood serum in the mid-1940s to the mapping of blood groups in the 1960s and 1970s. There are early research notes, correspondence and papers relating to student and other expeditions undertaking blood group and physical anthropology research and some MRC material assembled by Mourant relating to projects in which he had an interest. The largest group of research papers, however, is maps and data produced during preparation of the second edition of The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups. There is a chronological sequence of drafts and correspondence relating to Mourant's publications, 1929-1991, with extensive material relating to editions of The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups and to The Genetics of the Jews (1978). There is also editorial correspondence relating to publishers and journals, chiefly invitations to review books or referee papers and an incomplete set of offprints. There is correspondence and papers relating to some of Mourant's lectures and broadcasts, most notably the lectures on blood groups given at the Collège de France, Toulouse, 1978-1979. Societies and organisations material is not extensive, and is confined to brief documentation of only a few of the societies and organisations with which Mourant was associated. It includes professional and geological bodies as well as haematological, biological and medical organisations. Visits and conferences material covers the period 1960-1987. It is not comprehensive, though there is also considerable documentation of Mourant's visits and conferences in the papers he assembled in the course of preparing his biography and with lectures material. Mourant's correspondence is extensive. Its complexity reflects Mourant's organisation of the material, the bulk of which was found in three main series: 'Foreign 1965-1977', 'Biological' and 'Geological', together with a fragment of a fourth series 'Home 1965-1977'. Principal correspondents include C.C. Blackwell, B. Bonné, O.J. Brendemoen, V.A. Clarke, L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, A. W. Eriksson, T.J. Greenwalt, J.K. Moor-Jankowski, T. Jenkins, W.S. Pollitzer, D.F. Roberts, J. Ruffié, D. Tills and J.S. Weiner.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

By section as follows: A. Biographical, B. Early career, C. Blood Group Reference Laboratory and Blood Group Centre, D. Serological Population Genetics Laboratory, E. Haematological research, F. Publications, G. Lectures and broadcasts, H. Societies and organisations, J. Visits and conferences, K. Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Conditions governing access:

By appointment with the Archivist, and after completing a Reader's Undertaking. Certain items in sections D, E and K are closed or subject to access restrictions. Please see the catalogue for further details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies and photographic copies are supplied at the discretion of the Archivist; in the case of certain deposited collections, the permission of the owner may also be required. Please note that material may be unsuitable for photocopying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months.

Finding aids:

Catalogued by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, University of Bath, 1999 (Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Arthur Ernest Mourant: NCUACS catalogue no. 85/6/99, 235 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath). Detailed catalogue available at

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

These papers were received by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, University of Bath, from the Société Jersiaise and Mrs Jean Mourant, widow, May 1998 and from the Société Jersiaise, January 1999. They were placed in the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre (now Archives and Manuscripts following merger with Western Manuscripts) by the NCUACS, 1999 (CMAC accession no 816).

Allied Materials

Related material:

Material relating to Mourant's membership of the Société Jersiaise, the Jersey earthquake of 1927, the activities of Channel Island exiles during the Second World War and other topics relating to Jersey and its geology are held in the Lord Coutanche Library at the Société Jersiaise, St Helier, Jersey.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Description based on that created by NCUACS, University of Bath, with amendments by Helen Wakely, 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

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