The Balfour Chair of Genetics was established at Cambridge in 1912. As part of its centenary celebrations the Department of Genetics has produced a short film following the development of the subject in the University over the past 100 years.

Genetics is a young discipline whose birth and development spans scarcely more than a century

In the early 20th century the establishment of genetic research in Britain was driven primarily by William Bateson. As Steward of St John’s College and later Professor of Biology in the University,  Bateson played a key role in demonstrating the applicability of Mendel’s laws to a variety of organisms, particularly animals. As well as laying the foundations for a renewed interest in the study of heredity, it was Bateson who coined the term Genetics. In 1912, largely as a result of Bateson’s championing of the subject, the University established the Balfour Professorship of Genetics that in time would lead to the formation of the modern Department of Genetics. The first incumbent of the Chair was Reginald Punnett, known to students of biology throughout the world for his eponymous square. In the hundred years since this event Genetics has passed from being an eccentric mixture of mathematics, gardening and biology to become the core of the biological sciences. Our film tells the story of the role of Cambridge and the Department of Genetics in this journey.

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