GENETICS AND MEDICINE HISTORICAL NETWORK
Genetics is a new science. It is little more than a century since Mendel's laws were rediscovered in 1900, and less than 60 years since the structure of DNA was discovered in 1953. The recognition of the correct human chromosome number celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006.
Everyone will agree that the science of genetics has had an important impact on medicine, primarily on inherited disorders, but increasingly also in wider areas of medical research and practice. There have been many real benefits to patients and families, but genetics inevitably touches on a range of controversial ethical issues and there have been serious misuses in the past which we all need to be aware of.
Until recently, the history of genetics as it involves medicine has been little documented. Many important developments and discoveries that have until recently been thought of as 'new' are rapidly becoming part of history.
There is an urgent need to rescue and preserve the material that forms the historical basis of genetics in medicine. This includes recorded interviews with pioneers in the field, as well as images and the written records of individual workers, of projects and of organisations. A promising start has been made towards achieving this, but much remains to be done in this rapidly changing field.
The Genetics and Medicine Historical Network aims to link and encourage all the many people who are interested in recording, preserving, analysing and learning from the history of this important and exciting branch of science and medicine. The website is continually developing and the directions it takes and its success will be largely dependent on those who use it. We hope that all who have an interest in the field will contribute, both to its overall development and with specific material. We have recently redeveloped and simplified the site, making it fully available to all without password or other formalities.
Peter Harper (April 2012)