Intended for healthcare professionals


Sue Povey: molecular geneticist who masterminded human gene naming

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 21 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l1227
  1. Penny Warren
  1. London, UK
  1. penny.warren{at}
Photo credit: Philip and Nicola Povey

Publication of the complete sequence of the human genome in 2003 was a landmark event, and Sue Povey, Haldane professor of human genetics, played a key part in its success. She led the team at University College London that was part of the Human Genome Project, and successfully took on the hugely complex task of organising gene nomenclature.

Early years

Born in 1942, Povey grew up in Leeds with her younger brother Philip. Her father, Jack, was an intelligence officer in the Royal Air Force, who later taught physics, and her mother, Margaret, practised as a GP. Povey learnt about wild flowers and birds from her mother, and it would remain one of her lifelong interests. She became interested in other aspects of natural history too, borrowing books such as On the Origin of Species from her grandfather, who was a doctor and interested in genetics.

After a stellar academic career at Notre Dame Collegiate School in Leeds, Povey studied natural sciences and genetics …

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