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Making Human Heredity: Populations and Public Health in the Postwar Era

28–30 June 2012
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

heredity-mapThe postwar study of human heredity was shaped by an array of fields engaged with the study of human populations, including cytogenetics, physical anthropology, epidemiology, public health and demography. This workshop will address the continuities in population thinking across these fields, and the shared practices, institutional structures and analytical and organisational technologies that constituted postwar human heredity.

The workshop aims to bring into view how human populations were shaped through sampling protocols and technologies of data organization. It will emphasize the roles of international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, in promoting and coordinating collection practices across different disciplines and countries. It will also recover the ways in which data and samples were negotiated by researchers with different interests, and re-appropriated in disciplinarily diverse research programmes.

The workshop is supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Genetics Society and by the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award in the History of Medicine on the theme Generation to Reproduction (awarded to the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and colleagues in Classics, Geography, History, King's and Physiology, Development & Neuroscience, University of Cambridge).

Convened by Jenny Bangham (University of Cambridge) and Soraya de Chadarevian (University of California, Los Angeles).

Thursday 28 June

The genetics of human populations

14:00 Veronika Lipphardt (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin): Studies of human variation after 1945: genetics, anthropology and public health
14:45 Lisa Gannett (Saint Mary's University, Halifax): 'Population', 'ethnicity', and 'race' in genetics
15:30 Coffee and tea

Genetics, populations, public health

16:00 Soraya de Chadarevian (University of California, Los Angeles): Chromosome surveys of human populations: between epidemiology and anthropology
16:45 Edna Suarez (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México): Indigenous populations in Mexico: medical genetics and cultural anthropology in the work of Ruben Lisker in the 1960s
17:30 Susanne Bauer (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt): Mutations in Soviet public health: post-Lysenko medical genetics and epidemiology, 1969–1991
18:15 Discussion
19:00 Dinner

Friday 29 June

Sampling and collecting

09:30 Jenny Bangham (University of Cambridge): Sampling practices and institutional networks in postwar blood-group anthropology in Britain, 1946–1956
10:15 Joanna Radin (University of Pennsylvania): Standardizing variation: World Health Organization working groups and human tissue collection, 1958–1970
11:00 Coffee and tea
11:30 Alexandra Widmer (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin): Of indigenous knowledge and Melanesian blood: Carleton Gadjusek's research practices on blood and genetic diversity in the Western Pacific Islands (1960s–1970s)

Heredity and demography

12:15 Edmund Ramsden (University of Exeter): Postwar British demography: survey technologies of the UK Population Investigation Committee
13:00 Lunch

Heredity in the clinic

15:00 María Jesús Santesmases (Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, CSIC, Madrid): Prenatal testing and the autonomous karyotype: children, pregnant women, and early Down syndrome cytogenetics, 1962–1975
15:45 Ilana Löwy (Centre de Recherche Medicine, Science Santé et Societé, Paris): How genetics came to the unborn: 1960–1990
16:30 Coffee and tea
17:00 Susan Lindee (University of Pennsylvania): Respondent
19:30 Dinner and further discussion

Saturday 30 June

09:30–12:00 General discussion re: Studies Special Issue (speakers only)
12:00 Lunch