James V. Neel

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Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. James Van Gundia Neel (March 22, 1915 – February 1, 2000) was an American geneticist who played a key role in the development of human genetics as a field of research in the United States. He made important contributions to the emergence of genetic epidemiology and pursued an understanding of the influence of environment on genes. In his early work, he studied sickle-cell disease and conducted research on the effects of radiation on survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. In 1956, Neel established the University of Michigan Department of Genetics, the first department of human genetics at a medical school in the United States. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1971.[1]

Of particular interest to Neel was an understanding of the human genome in an evolutionary light, a concept he addressed in his fieldwork with cultural anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon among the Yanomamo and Xavante in Brazil and Venezuela. His involvement in this fieldwork came under heavy scrutiny and criticism in the Darkness in El Dorado controversy, a scandal in anthropology that broke in 2000 involving numerous allegations of unethical research that threatened serious damage to Neel's reputation. The accusation is that Neel deliberately injected South American natives with virulent measles vaccine to spark off an epidemic which killed hundreds and probably thousands.[2] However, these claims against him were never substantiated with evidence and it was found later that the measles outbreak predated his arrival.


Neel was deeply involved with a number of prominent organizations through the course of his career, including, but not limited to: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society, Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, National Research Council, Pan-American Health Organization, Radiation Effects Research Foundation, University of Michigan, and World Health Organization.

He testified several times before committees and sub-committees of the United States Congress as an expert witness regarding the long-term effects of radiation on human populations.


James van Gundia Neel Papers

The professional papers of James V. Neel are held in the archives of the Library of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, PA.

See also


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  2. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  • Lindee, Susan. 2001. "James Van Gundia Neel (1915-2000)." American Anthropologist. June, Vol. 103, No. 2, pp. 502–505 [1]


  • 1949 The Inheritance of Sickle Cell Anemia. Science 110: 64-66.
  • 1967 The Web of History and the Web of Life: Atomic Bombs, Inbreeding and Japanese Genes. Michigan Quarterly Review 6:202-209.
  • 1994 Physician to the Gene Pool: Genetic Lessons and Other Stories. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

External links