Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Writing, printing, speaking: Rhesus blood-group genetics and nomenclatures in the mid-twentieth century

  • JENNY BANGHAM (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

In the 1940s and 1950s, British and American journals published a flood of papers by doctors, pathologists, geneticists and anthropologists debating the virtues of two competing nomenclatures used to denote the Rhesus blood groups. Accounts of this prolonged and often bitter episode have tended to focus on the main protagonists' personalities and theoretical commitments. Here I take a different approach and use the literature generated by the dispute to recover the practical and epistemic functions of nomenclatures in genetics. Drawing on recent work that views inscriptions as part of the material culture of science, I use the Rhesus controversy to think about the ways in which geneticists visualized and negotiated their objects of research, and how they communicated and collaborated with workers in other settings. Extending recent studies of relations between different media, I consider the material forms of nomenclatures, as they were jotted in notebooks, printed in journals, scribbled on blackboards and spoken out loud. The competing Rhesus nomenclatures had different virtues as they were expressed in different media and made to embody commitments to laboratory practices. In exploring the varied practical and epistemic qualities of nomenclatures I also suggest a new understanding of the Rhesus controversy itself.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Writing, printing, speaking: Rhesus blood-group genetics and nomenclatures in the mid-twentieth century
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Writing, printing, speaking: Rhesus blood-group genetics and nomenclatures in the mid-twentieth century
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Writing, printing, speaking: Rhesus blood-group genetics and nomenclatures in the mid-twentieth century
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/>.
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Marion E. Reid , ‘Alexander S. Wiener: the man and his work’, Transfusion Medicine Reviews (2008) 22, pp. 300316

Paul Schmidt , ‘Rh–Hr: Alexander Wiener's last campaign’, Transfusion (1994) 34, pp. 180182

Andrew Warwick , Masters of Theory: Cambridge and the Rise of Mathematical Physics, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003

Sergio Sismondo , ‘Models, simulations, and their objects’, Science in Context (1999) 12, pp. 247260

Staffan Müller-Wille , ‘Early Mendelism and the subversion of taxonomy: epistemological obstacles as institutions’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (2005) 36, pp. 465487

Jean-Paul Gaudillière and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (eds.), Classical Genetic Research and Its Legacy: The Mapping Cultures of Twentieth-Century Genetics, London and New York: Routledge, 2004

Mazumdar , ‘Two models for human genetics: blood grouping and psychiatry in Germany between the world wars’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine (1996) 70, pp. 609657

William H. Schneider , ‘Blood group research in Great Britain, France and the United States between the world wars’, Yearbook of Physical Anthropology (1995) 38, pp. 87114

M. Okroi and P. Voswinckel , ‘“Obviously impossible”: the application of the inheritance of blood groups as a forensic method. The beginning of paternity tests in Germany, Europe and the USA’, International Congress Series (2003) 1239, pp. 711714

David Kaiser , ‘Stick-figure realism: conventions, reification, and the persistence of Feynman diagrams, 1948–1964’, Representations (2000) 70, pp. 4986

Robin Findlay Hendry , ‘Mathematics, representation and molecular structure’, in Ursula Klein (ed.), Tools and Modes of Representation in the Laboratory Sciences, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001, pp. 221236

James A. Secord , ‘How scientific conversation became shop talk’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (2007) 17, pp. 129–56

Bruno J. Strasser , ‘Laboratories, museums, and the comparative perspective: Alan A. Boyden's quest for objectivity in serological taxonomy, 1924–1962’, Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (2010) 40, pp. 149182

Karl Landsteiner and Alexander Wiener , ‘An agglutinable factor in human blood recognised by immune sera for Rhesus blood’, Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (1940) 43, p. 223

Landsteiner and Wiener , ‘Studies on an agglutinogen (Rh) in human blood reacting with anti-Rhesus sera and with human isoantibodies’, Journal of Experimental Medicine (1941) 74, pp. 309320

P. Levine , ‘The role of isoimmunization in the pathogenesis of Erythroblastosis fetalis’, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (1941) 42, pp. 925937

Karl Landsteiner , Alexander S. Wiener and G. Albin Matson , ‘Distribution of the Rh factor in American “Indians”’, Journal of Experimental Medicine (1942) 76, pp. 7378

P.L. Mollison and G.L. Taylor , ‘Wanted: anti-Rh sera’, British Medical Journal (1943) 1(4243), pp. 561562

R.R. Race , ‘An “incomplete” antibody in human serum’, Nature (1944) 153, pp. 771772

D.F. Cappell , ‘The blood group Rh. Part I: a review of the antigenic structure and serological reactions of the Rh subtypes’, British Medical Journal (1946) 2(4477), pp. 601605

J.B.S. Haldane , ‘Two new allelomorphs for heterostylism in Primula’, American Naturalist (1933) 67, pp. 559560

Peter Becker and William Clark (eds.), Little Tools of Knowledge, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001

A.S. Wiener , ‘Theory and nomenclature of the Hr blood factors’, Science (1945) 102(2654), pp. 479482, 479

Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison , ‘The image of objectivity’, Representations (1992) 40, pp. 81128

Edward Ducey and Robert Modica , ‘On the amendment of the nomenclature of the Rh-CDE system’, Science (1950) 111, pp. 466467

William B. Castle , Maxwell M. Wintrobe and Laurence H. Snyder , ‘On the nomenclature of the anti-Rh typing serums: report of the advisory review board’, Science (1948) 107, pp. 2731, 30

R. Coombs , ‘Detection of weak and “incomplete” Rh agglutinins: a new test’, The Lancet (1945) 246, pp. 1516

R.R. Race , A.E. Mourant and Sheila Callender , ‘Rh antigens and antibodies in man’, Nature (1946) 157, p. 410411

John Murray , ‘A nomenclature of subgroups of the Rh factor’, Nature (1944) 154, 701702

P.L. Mollison , ‘Blood Groups’, British Medical Journal (1951) 1(4696), p. 75

O. Geifman-Holtzman , ‘Noninvasive fetal RhCE genotyping from maternal blood’, British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (2008) 116, pp. 144151

E.B. Ford , ‘A uniform notation for the human blood groups’, Heredity (1954) 9, pp. 135142

Malak Kotb , ‘Consensus nomenclature for the mammalian methionine adenosyltransferase genes and gene products’, Trends in Genetics (1997) 13, pp. 5152

Peter Beurton , Raphael Falk and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger , The Concept of the Gene in Development and Evolution: Historical and Epistemological Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000

Maxine F. Singer , ‘SINE and LINE nomenclature’, Trends in Genetics (1990) 6, 204

E.M. East , ‘The Mendelian notation as a description of physiological facts’, American Naturalist 46 (1912), 633695

William B. Castle , ‘Simplification of Mendelian formulae’, American Naturalist (1913) 47, pp. 170182

C.C. Little , ‘Report of the committee on genetic form and nomenclature’, American Naturalist (1921) 55, pp. 175178

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 43
Total number of PDF views: 104 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 114 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.