Friday, October 1, 2010

Main man for mutant mice

Archives and Manuscripts is pleased to announce that a detailed catalogue of the papers of the geneticist Professor Hans Grüneberg FRS (1907-1982) is now available online. Although a rudimentary boxlisting of this collection has been available for some considerable time, this failed adequately to reflect the richness and importance of Grüneberg’s correspondence, covering the years 1922-1982, with colleagues, friends, family, institutions, publishers, etc. This correspondence has now been listed in detail with (as far as possible, since some signatures remain illegible, or consist merely of a nickname) the names of correspondents given, searchable via the online catalogue.

Grüneberg was something of a prodigy, publishing his first paper (on Devonian fossils) in the yearbook of the Elberfeld Natural History Society when he was only 17. He studied medicine and genetics in Bonn and Berlin but his career in Germany was adversely affected by the rise of the Nazis to power and early in 1933 he lost his position at the Elberfeld Municipal Hospital. Shortly afterwards he was invited to pursue genetic research with J. B. S. Haldane at University College London, where he arrived in August 1933, finding the ambience very different from what he was used to in Germany. Apart from a period in the Army during the Second World War, he spent the rest of his life at UCL, retiring as Emeritus Professor of Genetics in 1974.

Along with C H Waddington (with whom there is a substantial tranche of correspondence in this collection), Grüneberg established the field of development genetics, studying pathological processes in mutant mice, and formulating a "pedigree of causes" of genes, which was an important model for human disease. His interest in mouse mutations led him into correspondence with amateur breeders of fancy mice as well as scientific colleagues, while he was also interested in questions of best practice in feeding, housing and general maintenance of laboratory mice. His ‘waltzing mice’ were featured in a BBC science programme. He took an active part in the discussions of the Committee for Standardized Nomenclature of Inbred Strains of Mice.

The collection, while reflecting Grüneberg’s own significant work in genetics, and his importance in establishing the mouse as a leading animal model in mammalian genetics, also includes his later work on snails and radiation-induced mutation, and his involvement in the teaching of the subject in medical schools. It contains much correspondence from leading contemporaries in the field, including fellow refugees such as Charlotte Auerbach FRS. There are also substantial amounts of material on his travels, particularly to India and Sri Lanka, and his relationships with colleagues in those countries, and on his work as external examiner in genetics at the University of Malaysia.

Apart from a small amount of material closed for reasons of Data Protection, this collection is available to researchers subject to the usual conditions of access to material in Archives and Manuscripts.

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