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On-line version ISSN 2340-7948Print version ISSN 0211-9536


CHADAREVIAN, Soraya de. Human population studies and the World Health Organization. Dynamis [online]. 2015, vol.35, n.2, pp.359-388. ISSN 2340-7948.

This essay draws attention to the role of the WHO in shaping research agendas in the biomedical sciences in the postwar era. It considers in particular the genetic studies of human populations that were pursued under the aegis of the WHO from the late 1950s to 1970s. The study provides insights into how human and medical genetics entered the agenda of the WHO. At the same time, the population studies become a focus for tracking changing notions of international relations, cooperation, and development and their impact on research in biology and medicine in the post-World War II era. After a brief discussion of the early history of the WHO and its position in Cold War politics, the essay considers the WHO program in radiation protection and heredity and how the genetic study of "vanishing" human populations and a world-wide genetic study of newborns fitted this broader agenda. It then considers in more detail the kind of support offered by the WHO for these projects. The essay highlights the role of single individuals in taking advantage of WHO support for pushing their research agendas while establishing a trend towards cooperative international projects in biology.

Keywords : World Health Organization; human population studies; human heredity; primitive people; Alan Stevenson; James V. Neel.

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