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Edinburgh University Library Special Collections Division

Records of the Institute of Animal Genetics

Collection Summary

Reference Code

GB 0237 Da 57 IAG



Extent and medium of the unit of description

3 metres

(3 boxes)

Existence and Location of Originals

This material is original.

Name of creator

University of Edinburgh | Institute of Animal Genetics | 1930-1990 | university research institute | Edinburgh (Scotland)

Biographical History

Administrative History

Although not actually set up until 1919, the Institute of Animal Genetics had its origins in 1911 when the Development Commissioners formulated an ambitious scheme for the encouragement of agricultural education and research. A committee was set up to advise them of the best means of contributing to the study of animal breeding problems. Because at that time there were many well-known researchers working at the University of Edinburgh, such as James Cossar Ewart (1851-1933), Professor of Natural History, Francis Hugh Adam Marshall, (1878-1949), physiologist, and Arthur Darbishire, (1879-1915), lecturer in Genetics and Animal Breeding, and since it was a stated policy to encourage a close association between the research institutes that were to be formed in the universities, it was evident that Edinburgh would become the centre for research in Animal Breeding.

In 1913 the University of Edinburgh and East of Scotland College of Agriculture Joint Committee on Research in Animal Breeding was formed. The Joint Committee submitted a proposal which resulted in an agreement that a scheme of work monitored by a scientific director be drawn up. With the advent of the First World War the plans had to be temporarily put to one side, particularly in the light of the death of Arthur Dukinfield Darbishire in 1915, the chosen candidate for the post of Director. It took a further four years before the project would finally get off the ground under the direction of Francis Albert Eley Crew (1886-1973), who held an Assistantship in the Natural History Department of the University of Edinburgh. The centre that was founded was known as the Department of Research in Animal Breeding, managed by the Joint Committee and funded by the University, the Development Commission and the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, while within the University, the Department was not part of the University structure.

In 1924 the centre moved out to the (then) new Chemistry Building on the King's Buildings campus, and also gained 7 acres of grassland which provided an opportunity for maintaining a few farm animals under direct control for experimental purposes. A year later the department was expanded thanks to various endowments and donations, allowing for the creation of the Buchanan Chair of Animal Genetics in 1928, to which Crew was appointed, also the foundation of a new building on the Kings Buildings site (the present Crew building), and provided additional funds for research. A further result was that the Joint Committee was disbanded and the Department became an integral part of the University with a new Animal Breeding Committee advising on the management of the Department. In 1930 the Department was renamed the Institute of Animal Genetics and transferred to the newly completed Genetics Building.

Professor Crew was also successful in securing the Institute as the location for the Imperial Bureau of Animal Genetics, which was established in 1930 to disseminate information through reviews and bibliographies, with Animal Breeding Abstracts being first published in 1933. The pre-war period concluded with the staging of the 7th International Congress of Genetics in Edinburgh in September 1939 which was suspended by the outbreak of war. Many of the staff at the Institute were immediately called up for war service and it was placed in the charge of Alan William Greenwood (1897-c1980), head of the Poultry Section.

After the war Professor Crew returned to the University of Edinburgh where he took up the Chair of Public Health and Social Medicine, and the directorship of the Institute of Animal Genetics was taken over by Greenwood. In 1945 the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) formed the National Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation (NABGRO), the genetics laboratory of which was housed in the Institute, directed by Conrad Hal Waddington (1905-1975), who was appointed to the Chair of Animal Genetics one year later. Another year later, NABGRO was then renamed the Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation (ABGRO). Also in 1947, the University Department of Animal Genetics was constituted within the Institute.

Following the retirement of Robert G White (the then Director of ABRGO) in 1950, Hugh P Donald (1908-1989) was appointed co-director with Waddington, each in charge of one section of the Institute; Animal Breeding and Animal Genetics respectively. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the head of the Genetics Section was not employed by the ARC but by the University of Edinburgh. However, this was rectified in 1951 when Donald was appointed Director of the renamed Animal Breeding Research Organisation (ABRO), while the Animal Genetics Section under Waddington became a separate ARC funded group within the University Department. It was eventually designated the ARC Unit of Animal Genetics in 1957. The Unit continued under Waddington until his departure in 1968 when the Deputy Director, Douglas Scott Falconer (from 1969 also Head of the Department of Genetics) took over as Director. The Unit continued until Falconer's retirement in 1980 when it was disbanded. The Genetics Building has also been renamed the Crew Building.

Scope and Content

Scope and Content

The records of the Institute of Animal Genetics consist of:

  • the archives of Alan William Greenwood, including: photographs, biographical information, notebooks, visitors books, scrapbooks, bound volume of articles, lectures and papers, newspaper cuttings and correspondence (1916-1968)
  • visitors books (1924-1972)
  • 3 histories of the Institute of Animal Genetics (1920s-1967)
  • annual reports: Animal Breeding Research Department (1924-1928)
  • annual reports: Institute of Animal Genetics (1935-1946)
  • papers re Francis Albert Eley Crew: biographical details, correspondence, a paper entitled Heredity in its physical and mental aspects, and fragments of other works (1925-1987)
  • personnel and staff further particulars (1968-1986)
  • papers re Conrad Hal Waddington: publication list (1929-1975), miscellaneous biographical papers (1951-1975), copies of invoices and lists of books purchased, lists of files (1958-1978)
  • minutes and memoranda of the Animal Genetics Department (1928-1947)
  • correspondence of the Animal Breeding Committee (1920-1935)

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