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John Hilton Edwards

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 13 December 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:1269
  1. Caroline Richmond

    Geneticist who recognised trisomy 18 (Edwards’ syndrome) and the usefulness of chorionic villus sampling

    John Edwards, professor of genetics at Birmingham and Oxford, contributed to every aspect of his subject—in population, cytology, and trisomy studies, as well as radiation, blood group, and linkage studies. He developed a research tool, the Oxford grid, for mapping homologies between genetic sequences in different species. He recognised trisomy 18 in stillborn and abnormal babies—the condition named after him. He advanced knowledge of the inherited form of hydrocephalus. He reported a series of 20 cases of Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a rare genetic disease. He also suggested that placental sampling, introduced to detect Rhesus negative babies, should also be used to detect chromosome abnormalities. His expertise in mathematics, statistics, and computer programming contributed to this.

    Edwards was born in London, the son of a surgeon. He didn’t learn to read until he was 9, because he was rarely read to, which he later said gave him time to think. After qualifying in 1952 he did his national service in the Artists Rifles, …

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