Barton Childs

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 21 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2151
  1. Ned Stafford

    Paediatric geneticist and legendary contributor to the understanding of inherited disease

    It was the early 1950s, and Barton Childs of Johns Hopkins University Medical School had to decide where to pursue his new found interest in human genetics. At the time, Johns Hopkins had nothing to offer in the discipline, leaving Childs two choices: Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to James V Neel, who was just getting started at the University of Michigan, or London, home to Galton Laboratory at University College.

    It was not a hard decision. “[Galton Laboratory] was the one and only, I think, at the time, fully developed department of human genetics, run by Lionel S Penrose, who was known the world over as a pre-eminent person in human genetics and medicine,” Childs said in an interview in 2001 for the oral history of human genetics collection at the University of California in Los Angeles. “London was a wonderful place to be, and at the same time, all these people to teach me and from whom I could learn a lot.”

    So in the summer of 1952, Childs, with his genetics knowledge hovering near zero, arrived in London for a one year fellowship. “What I did there was to try to exploit everybody as much as I could,” he recalled. He learnt from such …

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