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Helen King

KING, Helen, née Dean, American zoologist, d-1955. A pioneer of research on animal inbreeding. After getting a PhD from Bryn Mawr she stayed there until 1904, then moved to the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology in Philadelphia. A long career there, 1906-49, she became Professor of Embryology in 1927. After 10 years of inbreeding albino rats, using brother-sister matings from healthy litters, Helen had analysed every aspect of growth over 25 generations. Her published conclusions (1918) shocked many people, scientists and otherwise. The fact that her inbred animals compared favourably to the normally bred control groups of normal albinos, was not to many people’s liking. The implications were that sanguineous marriages would be a means of improving the human race. Then in 1919, Helen succeeded in domesticating Norwegian rats, and then observed many mutants (different colours, etc.). Her earlier findings were presented in four lengthy papers, during 1918-19, all entitled ‘Studies in Inbreeding’, each dealing with different comparative aspects. The most significant long-term aspect of her work was that it became possible to breed laboratory animals suitable for research, Her work with mutants meant that unusual animal strains were available for the study of specific abnormal characteristics. Helen served on the Wistar Institute Advisory Board and was Editor of Bibliographic Services. An Associate Editor of the Journal of Morphology and Physiology for 3 years.


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