Genetics research correspondence

Scope and Content

  • Glasgow: current research (up to 1960), including correspondence detailing Pontecorco's research on recombination and the parasexual cycle as well as experimenting with Aspergillus nidulans and Aspergillus nidulans;
  • Research 1960s-1980s, including correspondence on haploidization, the parasexual cycle, and PEG cell fusion;
  • Potentially valuable signatures, a bundle of correspondence between Pontecorvo and notable geneticists charting the development of research in genetics and other related fields during the 1940s-1960s;
  • Various bundles of correspondence relating to patents and Pontecorvo's research work on Aspergillus, icluding copies of the patents and correspondence with the National Research Development Corporation;
  • Miscellaneous correspondence on Pontecorvo's response to a patent dispute and his research on sudden infant death syndrome or cot death.

Most of the bundles of correspondence contain original letters from correspondents, as well as manuscript or carbon copies of Pontecorvo's responses.

Administrative / Biographical History

Pontecorvo's earlier research was concerned with animal breeding and radiation effects and genetics of speciation with Drosophila. He made significant contributions to cattle breeding in Tuscany where he organized a wide-ranging programme of recording and selective breeding for milk yield and draught ability in two regional cattle breeds. When he came to Glasgow Pontecorvo's main interests were in mitotic genetics, mutation theories, gene regulation and recombination and what Pontecorvo himself liked to call "Parasexual cycle genetics". Pontecorvo's two main contributions to genetics were his discovery of the parasexual cycle in fungi, which led him to develop methods of genetics analysis that became the foundations of what is now known as somatic cell genetics. The Parasexual Cycle was successfully patented in 1954 and was the first patent to be issued in any jurisdiction for a natural biological process. Pontecorvo's second major contribution to genetics was his work on intragenic recombination and his seminal paper titled Genetic formulation of gene structure and gene action (1952), on the organisation of the genetic material. This paper proposed a new theory of the gene a year before Watson and Crick's famous discovery of the structure of DNA.


Pontecorvo arranged his correspondence into folders of related material. This arrangement has been maintained. Folders of correspondence have been arranged below in a rough chronological order to show the development of Pontecorvo's ideas and research but kept within the original order within each folder. This is usually reverse chronological.

Related Material

GB 248 UGC 198/8, lectures and broadcasts contains lecture notes on some of Pontecorvo's main research interests while GB 248 UGC 198/7 contains a set of publications and reprints related to his main research interests.