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Animal Breeding Research Organisation. ABRO (1945 - 1986)



  • Existence: 1945-1986

ABRO directors

Towards the end of the Second World War, a survey group of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the Agricultural Improvement Councils of the United Kingdom identified the need for large scale research into the breeding and genetics of livestock in order to aid the improvement of Britain's agricultural output. In 1945 the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) established the Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation (ABGRO), with the intention to carry out both fundamental genetics research (in the 'Genetics Section') and large-scale breeding experiments on livestock. R.G. White, then Professor of Agriculture at the University of North Wales at Bangor, was appointed director, while the developmental biologist C.H. Waddington was appointed Chief Geneticist of the Genetics Section.
Initial discussions indicated that ABGRO might be located in Oxford, but it was decided that Edinburgh would be more appropriate, given its strong reputation in animal breeding and genetics research at the Institute of Animal Genetics, with its close links to the University. Waddington was also offered the post of Buchanan Chair of Animal Genetics at the University of Edinburgh (in succession to F.A.E. Crew). ABGRO moved to Edinburgh in 1947, with the Genetics Section being housed within the Institute and the animal breeders based within Glenbourne House nearby. In addition, staff of both sections and their families were housed together in Mortonhall, a large house also to the south of the city. This unusual arrangement soon led to frictions and, after an official ARC enquiry, ABGRO was formally separated into two distinct parts. Waddington became a full employee of the University and headed up the former 'Genetics Section' - which in 1957 became known as the ARC Unit of Animal Genetics - as well as continuing in his role as Buchanan Professor. In practice, this meant that Waddington was de facto the overall director of the Institute of Animal Genetics (also referred to as the University's Genetics Department).
Meanwhile, ABGRO now became known as ABRO (the Animal Breeding Research Organisation) under the new directorship of H.P. Donald, and continued its research into applied and theoretical problems in animal breeding. ABRO had the use of a number of farms of varying types located in Scotland, Wales and England, for field research and large-scale breeding experiments and the maintenance of carefully controlled inbred lines of livestock. Much of the research focused on the genetic improvement of the animals, and involved inbreeding and crossbreeding trials and investigations of such areas as metabolic fitness, immunogenetics and factors affecting, for example, meat quality and hardiness. Some key successes over the decades were the improvement of dairy cattle through artificial insemination, the genetic improvement of pig breeds and the introduction of sheep group breeding schemes, while research on the sheep disease scrapie led to the creation of a Neuropathogenesis Unit (NPU) in Edinburgh. ABRO also operated the financially self-sufficient Cattle Blood Typing Service, which was widely used by breeders and breed societies as a check on the parentage of valuable pedigree bulls.
Like many research institutes, ABRO suffered from economic uncertainty and reduction during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1986 it became part of the Edinburgh Research Station of the new Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics Research (IAPGR), which had its headquarters in Babraham, Cambridge. In 1989, former ABRO staff moved from the building ABRO had occupied since 1964 on the University's King's Buildings site to the Edinburgh Research Station site in Roslin, Midlothian.
ABRO directors
R.G. White
H.P. Donald
J.W.B. King
R.B. Land (from 1986-1988 Head of Station of IAPGR-ERS)

Found in 14 Collections and/or Records:

Typescript titled 'Polyploidy in mammals', 1952

Identifier: Coll-1364/3/13
Scope and Contents Title page annotated 'Lecture to British Council and ABRO Course - Aims and Methods of Livestock Improvement: 11.30, Weds 18 June 1952.' Contains handwritten corrections.
Dates: 1952

Typescript titled 'The control of early mammalian development', 1952

Identifier: Coll-1364/3/14
Scope and Contents Title page annotated 'Lecture to ABRO Discussion Group, 13-11-52.' Contains handwritten corrections.
Dates: 1952

Typescript titled 'The genetics of spermatozoa', 1958

Identifier: Coll-1364/3/30
Scope and Contents Title page annotated 'ABRO Talk. 13-11-58.' Contains handwritten corrections.
Dates: 1958