Robson | JM | 1900-1982 | geneticist

Biographical Information

Occupation, Sphere of Activity

J.M. Robson's pharmacological research paved the way for the development of the contraceptive pill in the 1960s.

Robson was born in Belgium in 1900, but his family (Rabinovitch), who were originally Russian, migrated to Leeds before World War I. He attended school in Leeds and graduated from Leeds University in medicine in 1925. There were no posts available in physiological research that he had begun at Leeds so he accepted an appointment at the Institute of Animal Breeding in Edinburgh in 1930. Whilst there he undertook research on the effects of gonadotrophins in pregnancy, and also supervised the Pregnancy Diagnosis Station that had been founded by the Institute's director Professor Francis Crew.

In 1932 he was appointed lecturer at the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh, and thereafter pharmacology became his specialism, though he maintained a strong interest in hormone research. In addition to studies of the effects of hormones on the human uterus, he also worked on toxicology and chemotherapy. In 1946 he was appointed Reader in Pharmacology at Guy's Hospital Medical School, and was Professor of Pharmacology there from 1950-1968, when he retired.


In the 1940s he collaborated with Charlotte Auerbach (1899-1994) on the causes of cell mutagenisis in fruit flies (Drosophila) by mustard gas. He had first made the discovery that mustard gas, like radiation, could cause cell mutagenisis in the early 1930s whilst at the Institute of Animal Breeding in Edinburgh. His other collaborators were: with Bertold Paul Wiesner, Marshall and George Bell on sex hormones, with C.A. Keele on endocrinology, and with Marian on the chemistry of steroids.

Other Significant Information

By 1969 Robson estimated that he had published 259 scientific papers. In addition to these he also published a number of monographs including:Recent Advances in Sex and Reproductive Physiology, ( 1934)Recent Advances in Pharmacology, ( 1950)

Honours, Qualifications and Appointments

Held numerous appointments and honours amongst these are:

1932: Awarded D.Sc, University of Edinburgh

1968: Appointed Professor Emeritus, Guy's Hospital Medical School


List of sources for the biographical information:

James F. Crowe and James F. Dove (eds.)Perspectives on Genetics: Anecdotal, Historical and Critical Commentaries, 1987-1988, ( United States, 1993)

Who's Who 1978, ( Great Britain, A and C Black Ltd, 1978)