About Biological Anthropology Unit:

Professor Mahalanobis was inspired by Dr. Nelson Annandale, the then Director, Zoological Survey of India in 1920 who requested Professor Mahalanobis for statistical analysis of anthropometric data on the Angle-Indians in Calcutta, which resulted his first scientific paper on the Statistical Analysis of Angle-Indian Stature: Male, published in the Records of the Indian Museum in 1922. Mahalanobis continued his statistical analysis of anthropological data and made use of the D2 - statistic for the first time. The D2 - statistic or Mahalanobis generalized distance was one of the main contributions of Professor Mahalanobis to Statistical methods. Another contribution was the revision of H.H. Risley's anthropometric data on Indian population by using statistical methods.

Early phase of research activity in Anthropology of Professor Mahalanobis was with Professor D.N. Majumder (the then Head, Department of Anthropology, Lucknow University), which resulted a series of landmark publications along with Professor C.R. Rao. He along with his associates conducted anthropometric surveys in the then United Provinces and Bengal. Professor Mahalanobis also studied maternal death rates, proportions of still births, haematological parameters of newborns, blood pressure, nutrition, correlates of disease prevalence in man, prevalence of dysentery and its correlates, etc.

In 1960, Haematology Unit was founded. The unit's research activities were to enquire into the characteristics of populations in terms of ABO, MNS, Rh blood groups, to crosscheck the inferences drawn using anthropometric traits. Studies on frequencies of polymorphic genetic parameters expressed in the blood among endogamous groups were undertaken, research activities plummeted, and finally closed down.

In 1963, Anthropometry Unit was founded. Many young researchers were attracted and joined hands and did some commendable works; and later research activities were greatly expanded.

In 1968, Anthropometry and Human Genetics Unit was formed merging the then Anthropometry and Haematology Units. At this juncture, some new lines of research were undertaken on the advice of Professor R.L. Kirk, N.H. Blake and Dr. L.D. Sanghvi and a Biochemical Genetics Laboratory was set up. During late sixties researches in ergonomics and in the field of Human Adaptation to Environment particularly Urban Human Biology or more specifically "Stress Research" were undertaken in collaboration with Professor H.L. Shapiro. At about this time, another study was undertaken on the association between small pox and ABO blood groups in collaboration with Professor F. Vogel.

At about this time there had been a spate of research activities in the field of Serology and blood polymorphism; newer markers pertaining to red cell enzymes, serum proteins and enzymes were undertaken among the Indian populations and some newer variants were discovered. The activities of the unit greatly expanded and proliferated to include other human genetic traits like hypertrichosis, colour blindness, tongue rolling, arm folding, dermatoglyphics, PTC taste-sensitivity, human chromosome in addition to anthropometric and blood polymorphic traits which continued further.

Researches on endogamous groups initiated by Professor Mahalanobis were further pursued on numerous tribals and caste groups and their genetic distances were computed. Demographic structure, marriage distance, mental retardation, infanticide, problems of refugees, human population genetics, child growth and so forth were also studied. Later on an Indo-Soviet joint collaborative study (with USSR Academy of Science) was undertaken on the Indian and Central Asian populations using several anthropological and genetic parameters. Subsequently, the unit ventured out into newer areas of research like human auxology, human ecology, resource use and biomass, energy flow, human adaptation to different environments like high altitude, coastal areas, hinterland, rural-urban residence, socioeconomic status, nutrition, disease, as well as gerontology, gender discrimination in resource distribution, women's study with special reference to mental stress and reproductive health of women, joint forest management and social forestry, genetic epidemiology of vitiligo, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (risk factors), health and well-being, problems of survival of "disadvantaged groups" and their coping strategies or in other words, biocultural approach, under an evolutionary framework, was kept in view.

Along with studies on the endogamous groups; endangered, "disadvantaged", marginal, transplanted, refugee populations and those in exile have been given importance. Of late the unit has initiated studies on human genomics to unravel the origin, evolution and variation of man and particularly peopling in India, and also to understand the aetiology of different diseases in man, which hitherto eluded us.

The unit was renamed as Anthropology and Human Genetics Unit in 1996 .

In 2004, Biological Anthropology Unit was formed by splitting erstwhile Anthropology and Human Genetics Unit following the recommendation of the 3rd Review Committee of ISI.


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