Punnett | Reginald Crundall | 1875-1967 | geneticist and professor of biology, University of Cambridge

Biographical Information

Occupation, Sphere of Activity

Reginald Crundall Punnett (1875-1967) was introduced to biology during a bout of childhood appendicitis, when he read a series of books on the subject that his father had bought because of their elegant binding. He went on to study at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, from which he graduated in 1898 with a first class degree in Natural Sciences, specialising in zoology.

Punnett was a believer in the theories put forward by obscure monk Johann Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), the founder of modern genetics, and wrote the first textbook on the subject. Between 1904-1910, Punnett worked with William Bateson (1861-1926) to confirm Mendel's theories experimentally. Their experiments were mainly on poultry and sweet green peas. They did this successfully, and proved Mendel's explanations of sex determination, sex linkage, complimentary factors, factor integration and autosomal linkage.

During the First World War, Punnett put his knowledge of the genetics of poultry to a practical use, and developed a technique of separating male and female chicks using sex-linked plumage colours. In this way, the less useful male chicks could be separated from the more useful female chicks and destroyed. This improved the efficiency of the poultry industry. Punnett, in fact, created the first autosexing breed of poultry, the Cambar chicken.

He was a founding member of the Genetical Society and created the Journal of Genetics in association with Bateson. Punnett was also the inventor of the "Punnett Square", which depicts the number and variety of genetic combinations.


Reginald Crundall Punnett worked closely with William Bateson (1861-1926) in his work in genetics and collaborated with him on the Journal of Genetics, which they founded together.

Other Significant Information

Notable publications:

Mendelism, (1905)

Mimicry in Butterflies, (1915)

Heredity in Poultry, (1923)

Honours, Qualifications and Appointments

1898: Awarded first class degree, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

1898: Awarded Walsingham Medal, University of Cambridge

1909: Appointed Superintendent of the Museum of Geology

1910-1912: Appointed Professor of Biology, University of Cambridge

1911-1926: Appointed Joint Editor, Journal of Genetics

1912-1940: Appointed Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics, University of Cambridge

1912: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)

1926-1946: Appointed Editor, Journal of Genetics

1930: Elected President of the Genetical Society


List of sources for the biographical information:

Dolan DNA Learning Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Reginald Crundall Punnett (1875-1967), ( http://vector.cshl.org/dnaftb/concept_5/con5bio.html)

Yost, Robinson M, Reginald Crundall Punnett (1875-1967), (http://www.kirkwood.cc.ia.us/faculty/ryost/punnett.htm)

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Punnett, Reginald Crundall, (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=63490, Britannica.com and Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 2000)

Gillispie, Charles C, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol XI, (New York, Scribner's, 1975)