James Harrison Renwick

Biography of James Harrison Renwick

James Harrison Renwick
James Harrison Renwick

James (Jim) Harrison Renwick was a Titular Professor of Genetics at the University from 1967-1968. He joined the Department of Genetics in 1959 as a Research Fellow and was appointed to Senior Lecturer in 1960 and a Reader in 1966. He made a fundamental contribution to modern genetics, in particular to the development of human gene mapping that paved the way for the Human Genome Project.

Renwick was educated at Sedburgh School winning a Harkness Scholarship to the University of St Andrews in 1943. He studied medicine, graduating MB ChB in 1948. After various hospital appointments, 1948 to 1951, Renwick did his national service in the Royal Army Medical Corps 1951-1953, serving in Korea and seconded part-time to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, Japan (final rank of Captain). In 1953 Renwick was awarded a Medical Research Council grant to train in Human Genetics. He undertook this work in the Galton Laboratory of University College London, studying under Lionel Sharples Penrose and John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (PhD 1956).

Renwick spent a period 1958-1959 working under Victor Almon McKusick at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Department of Human Genetics (appointment as Physician). On his return to the UK in 1959 he took up a post as Research Fellow in Guido Pontecorvo's Department of Genetics at Glasgow University and worked here until 1968. He then moved to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as Reader in Human Genetics in the Department of Community Health and Head of the Preventive Teratology Unit. In 1978 he was appointed Professor of Human Genetics and Teratology, and also became Honorary Consultant Counsellor in Human Genetics at St George's Hospital, London. He retired in 1991.

For a period of nearly 20 years up to the early 1970s, Renwick pioneered the use of genetic markers to map disease genes on human chromosomes, seeing this field develop from its infancy at a time when there was virtually no information on mapping human genes to a major international scientific endeavour. His Independent obituarist notes that, "His work linking the ABO blood groups and the nail-patella syndrome was seminal and is still cited as a classic in human linkage analysis" and he was behind the first generalised computer program for calculating LODs (Logarithm of Odds) for large human pedigrees.

He was a founder of the Developmental Pathology Society, serving as its President. He was also active in social activities at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Renwick was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Glasgow (1970) and the Royal College of Physicians of London (1974) and a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists (1982). He was awarded the University of London DSc in 1970. He died on 29 September 1994.


James Harrison Renwick

Born 4 February 1926, Yorkshire, England.
Died 29 September 1994.
University Link: Lecturer, Professor
GU Degree:
Occupation categories: Geneticist
Record last updated: 22nd Apr 2013

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  • Professor

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