50 years after - examination of some circumstances around the establishment of the correct chromosome number of man

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Three authors, Levan (1975, 1978), Tjio (1978) and Hulten (2002)have independently described the establishment of the correct chromosome number of man Tjio and Levan 1956 and the background to that study. However, the three authors provide strikingly different accounts of this historical discovery. In this study I have examined the consistency between these accounts and details provided by the logbook kept at Cancer Chromosome Laboratory, University of Lund. For complementary details I have also consulted several persons that were active at the Institute of Genetics, Univ. of Lund, at the time of the discovery. Levan's (1975)Levan's (1978)accounts are both written in a modest way compared to the more self-centered narratives of Tjio and Hulten. His accounts are also consistent with all details that can be collected from the logbook. However, and most unfortunately, Levan is not explicit with respect to the dates of what might be different cytogenetic observations related to the determination of the correct chromosome number of man. The logbook leaves no room for various temporal details given by Tjio, which, if correct, might substantiate his account. Also Tjio's introduction of an alter ego into the narrative is apt to lessen the general credibility of his account. Tjio's (1978)contention of having made his human chromosome preparations at 2 a.m. on December 22nd or 23rd would be consistent with his claim that he arrived from Spain in early December 1955. His account of this crucial issue is incorrect, however, as he did not arrive at the Cancer Chromosome Laboratory until December 19. Hulten's claim of involvement becomes highly questionable in the light of her fading recollections of both the localities at the Institute of Genetics and the persons working there. Her temporal account, like that of Tjio, remains unsupported by the logbook. Examination of the logbook for temporal details relating to the establishment of the correct chromosome number of man suggests that Levan made his first preliminary 2n=46 human chromosome counts around December 20th - 23rd, 1955, and that Tjio made his first conclusive preparations two-three weeks after his arrival from Spain, that is in early January 1956.


  • Ulfur Arnason
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Genetics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-211
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Department of Cell and Organism Biology (Closed 2011.) (011002100)