Department of Genetics Records


Reference code


Level of description



Department of Genetics Records



53.25 Linear Feet

Name of creator


Administrative history

The Division of Medical Genetics was established as a result of a $1.4 million donation from James S. McDonnell in 1967. This followed a 1964 grant to Dr. William Sly, the head of the genetics program, which was used to study genetic mechanisms. The department was considered part of the Department of Internal Medicine and housed within the McDonnell Medical Science Building, also named for the McDonnell family as a result of a $4.7 million donation. The establishment of the department was celebrated by a lecture series titled “Genetics and the Space Age,” and Drs. William Sly and David L. Rimoin were directors.

Washington University School of Medicine became the eighth university in the country to have a genetics department. In addition to the academic program within the Department of Internal Medicine, a Genetics Counseling clinic was founded in conjunction with Children’s Hospital in 1967 using funding from a United States Public Health Service grant. When the grant funding ended in 1970, the Ranken Jordan Trust Fund began supporting the clinic and department on a smaller scale. In 1975, a four-year research grant was awarded to Dr. Sly, now promoted to professor, for continuing his research on enzymes and genetics.

Name of creator

(Born 1936)

Biographical history

David Schlessinger was born in Toronto, Canada. After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago in 1956, Schlessinger received his doctoral degree from Harvard University in 1960, where he worked for DNA co-discoverer and Nobel laureate James Watson.

Following two years of postdoctoral training at the Pasteur Institute with another laureate, Jacques Monod, Schlessinger joined Washington University, where he served as professor of molecular microbiology, genetics and microbiology in medicine.

In 1997 he moved to the National Institutes of Health where he is an NIH Distinguished Investigator at the Laboratory of Genetics at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). In 2017 he received the Washington University Medical Center Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award.

Scope and content

RG016 (Center for Genetics and Medicine records): Records of the Center and its predecessors under the direction of David Schlessinger, 1962-present. Includes correspondence, publications, and other documents of the Human Genome Center (1987-) and currently also documentation from Schlessinger's personal files at WUSM (1962-1997). 43 linear ft.

System of arrangement

Conditions governing access

The collection is open and accessible for research.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Users of the collection should read and abide by the Rights and Permissions guidelines at the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives.

Users of the collection who wish to cite items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication must request, sign, and return a Statement of Use form to the Archives.

For detailed information regarding use of this collection, contact the Archives and Rare Book Department of the Becker Library (

Preferred Citation:

Item description, Reference Code, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Part of Transfer, Center for Genetics in Medicine, Washington University School of Medcine, September 10 1997, Accession, 1998-012

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Related descriptions

Specialized notes

Alternative identifier(s)

Rules or conventions

"Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition (DACS), 2013."

Sources used

Archivist's note

© Copyright 2019 Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives. All rights reserved.

Subject access points

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