Paul Polani

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 16 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:670

The main founder of medical genetics in Britain and a pioneer of research into chromosome abnormalities

Paul Polani was the main founder in Britain of the field that we now recognise as medical genetics. He carried out groundbreaking work on human chromosome abnormalities, and his wider vision created, at Guy's Hospital London, the first comprehensive medical genetics centre that combined research with clinical and laboratory genetics services, a legacy that continues to bear fruit today. As recently as last November he opened, with great enthusiasm, the new medical and molecular genetics research laboratories at Guy's, and was able to see how, during his long life, the field had evolved from almost nothing to become a vital part of medicine.

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Paul Polani was born in 1914 in Trieste, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and he developed a keen interest in genetics while still at high school, which was reinforced by his university studies in biology and medicine, first at Siena and then at Pisa. By this point he was already intent on doing postgraduate research in Britain, and arrived in 1939, only for his …

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