Mourant, A. E. (Arthur Ernest), 1904-

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Mourant was born on 11 April in 1904 in Jersey. He was educated at Victoria College, Jersey before winning a King Charles I Scholarship to Exeter College Oxford where he read Chemistry. He graduated with a first class degree in Chemistry (taking crystallography as his special subject) and in 1926 went on to do research under J.A. Douglas on the geology of the Channel Islands (D.Phil. 1931). In 1928 he was appointed Demonstrator in Geology at Leeds University and the following year was given a place on the Geological Survey of Great Britain mapping coal measures in Lancashire. He left in 1931. Mourant's interest in geology continued throughout his life and he continued to publish articles on geology alongside haematological and medical publications.

Mourant returned to Jersey and in 1933 established the Jersey Chemical Pathology Laboratory, which he ran for five years. He then returned to London, intending to pursue a career as a psychoanalyst. As part of the necessary preparation he underwent psychoanalysis himself and in 1939 began medical training at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, London. On the outbreak of war Mourant continued his medical training but when Jersey was occupied by the Germans in 1940 he lost contact with his family who remained on the island. During the period 1940-1945 Mourant played an active role in Channel Island exile groups.

Mourant graduated B.M. and B.Ch. in 1943 and held a number of House posts before his appointment in 1944 as Medical Officer in the National Blood Transfusion Service. Mourant had developed an interest in haematology during his medical training and during this period pursued research into blood serum. He discovered the antibody anti-e, thus helping to establish the three-factor theory of the Rhesus system, and the Lewis factor and shared in the discovery of the Kell factor. With R.R. Race and R.R.A. Coombs he went on to develop the antiglobulin test.

In 1945 Mourant took up a post as Medical Officer with the Galton Laboratory Serum Unit before in 1946 being appointed Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC)'s newly established Blood Group Reference Laboratory, based at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, London. Mourant held this post to 1965. The Laboratory received international recognition in 1952 when the World Health Organisation named it as their International Blood Group Reference Laboratory. Mourant's interests were increasingly anthropological and his work on human blood group distribution world-wide saw publication of two major books: in 1953 the pioneering work The Distribution of Human Blood Groups and other Biochemical Polymorphisms and in 1958 The ABO Blood Groups and Maps of World Distribution. In 1952 Mourant was appointed Honorary Advisor (de facto Director) of the newly established Nuffield Blood Group Centre. It was administered by and housed in the Royal Anthropological Institute, reporting to its Blood Group Committee. From 1952 to 1962 the Centre was funded by the Nuffield Foundation but the MRC then took over responsibility for financing the Centre, which changed its name to the Anthropological Blood Group Centre.

In September 1965 Mourant retired from the Directorship of the Blood Group Reference Laboratory to become Head of the MRC's newly established Serological Population Genetics Laboratory (SPGL). This was established by the MRC as a unit that would combine the testing work undertaken in the Blood Group Reference Laboratory with the statistical and bibliographical work of the Anthropological Blood Group Centre, which was then amalgamated into the SPGL. The work of the SPGL was thus divided between two sections. The first was a testing laboratory, working principally for the Human Adaptability Section of the International Biological Programme (IBP). The second comprised the Anthropological Blood Group Centre that had been transferred to the SPGL, concentrating on preparing a second edition of The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups. The SPGL was based in premises rented by St Bartholomew's Hospital, London.

In 1971 the MRC announced that it was to close the SPGL. However, Mourant was anxious that the SPGL complete its work on The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups and other projects, including its work for the IBP. The MRC agreed to extend its support of the work on the distribution of human blood groups to 1973. Through assiduous fund-raising Mourant found support for the other projects and was able to see them through to completion. The SPGL finally closed in 1976. Mourant retired to the family home in Jersey where he continued to publish on haematology and physical anthropology as well as geology. Mourant was elected FRS in 1966. He died on 29 August 1994.

From the guide to the Papers of: Mourant, Arthur Ernest (1904-1994), 1919-1996, (Wellcome Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Papers of: Mourant, Arthur Ernest (1904-1994), 1919-1996 Wellcome Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Blackwell C C fl 1983 person
associatedWith Bonn? B fl 1962 person
associatedWith Brendemoen O J fl 1955 person
associatedWith Clarke V A fl 1964 person
associatedWith Coll?ge de France, Toulouse corporateBody
associatedWith Eriksson A W fl 1963 person
associatedWith Geological Survey of Great Britain corporateBody
associatedWith Greenwalt T J fl 1964 person
associatedWith Jankowski Jan K Moor Polish haematologist person
associatedWith Jenkins T fl 1969 person
associatedWith League of Nations Union corporateBody
associatedWith Medical Research Council, Blood Group Reference Laboratory corporateBody
associatedWith Medical Research Council, Serological Population Genetics Laboratory corporateBody
associatedWith Methodist Church corporateBody
associatedWith Mourant of Jersey person
associatedWith Pollitzer William Splott b 1923 person
associatedWith Roberts D F fl 1953 person
associatedWith Royal Anthropological Institute, Nuffield Blood Group Centre corporateBody
associatedWith Ruffi? Jacques fl 1957 person
associatedWith Sforza Luigi Luca Cavalli Italian geneticist person
associatedWith Tills D fl 1957 person
associatedWith University of Oxford, Exeter College corporateBody
associatedWith Victoria College, Jersey corporateBody
associatedWith Weiner Joseph Sidney fl 1952 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
London England
Jersey Channel Islands
Wars (events)


Birth 1904-04-11

Death 1994-08-29



Ark ID: w6f62vx4

SNAC ID: 23565094