[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
September 1959

Joseph Adams (1756-1818): A Forgotten Founder of Medical Genetics

Author Affiliations
From the Department of Medicine, University of Washington. John and Mary Markle Scholar in the Medical Sciences.
AMA Arch Intern Med. 1959;104(3):490-496. doi:10.1001/archinte.1959.00270090144020

The history of human and medical genetics has roots different from those in the study of heredity in plants and animals. Likeness between human parents and offspring and between familial and hereditary diseases always intrigued scientists and physicians throughout the ages. However, few systematic accounts of hereditary diseases in man appear to have been published before the twentieth century.

Occasional brilliant insights into the principles of medical genetics already existed in early times. In 1752, Maupertuis, cited by Glass,1 published an account of a family of polydactylia in four generations and demonstrated that the trait could be equally transmitted by father and mother. He further showed, by probability calculations, that chance alone could not account for the familial concentration of the trait. The striking sex-linked character of traits, such as color blindness and hemophilia, had also been established near the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of

Glass, B.:  Quart. Rev. Biol. 22:196 ( (Sept.) ) 1947.Crossref
Dalton, J.:  Mem. Lit. & Philos. Soc. Manchester 5:28, 1798.
Otto, J. C.:  Med. Repository 6:1, 1803.
Portal, A.:  Considérations sur la nature et traitement de quelques maladies héréditaires ou de famille , Paris, Baudouin, 1808.
Adams, J.:  A Treatise on the Supposed Hereditary Properties of Diseases , London, J. Callow, 1814.
Adams, J.:  Memoirs of the Life and Doctrines of John Hunter , London, J. Callow, 1817.
Joseph Adams, in  Dictionary of National Biography , edited by L. Stephen, London, Oxford University Press, 1886.
 Obituary of Joseph Adams ,  London M. Repository 10:167, 1818.
King, L. M.:  The Medical World of the 18th Century , Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1958.
Adams, J.:  Observations on Morbid Poisons, Phagedena and Cancer , London, J. Callow, 1795 (Ed. 2, 1796).
Adams, J.:  A Treatise on the Cancerous Breast , London, J. Callow, 1801.
Adams, J.:  A Popular View of Vaccine Inoculation , London, R. Phillips, 1807.
Adams, J.:  An Inquiry into the Laws of Epidemics , London, Johnson and J. Callow, 1809.
Adams, J.:  A Philosophical Treatise on the Hereditary Peculiarities of the Human Race , London, J. Callow, 1815.