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Biographical entry Sanger, Ruth Ann (1918 - 2001)

18 June 1918
Southport, Queensland, Australia
5 June 2001


Ruth Sanger began her career as a haematologist at the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service in Sydney. After World War II she moved to England where she embarked on a successful career that lead to her being appointed director of the British Medical Research Council in 1973.


After completing her school studies, Ruth Sanger enrolled in Science at Sydney University. She graduated with a science degree in 1938 and joined Sydney's Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service two years later. Her initial role was working in the plasma drying plant, but then moved to the blood-grouping laboratory. This sparked her interest in haematology, especially in the rhesus blood group system. To further her research, Sanger moved to London (after World War II) and began working at the Medical Research Council's Blood Group Unit. There she worked with Dr Robert Race who was later to become her husband.

While at the Blood Group Unit Sanger studied blood genetics and undertook a PhD in the field. She completed it in 1948 and two years later was co-author with Race of Blood Groups in Man. The book was prominent for 30 years with six editions published. It was recognised as the 'Bible' for blood groupers. Ruth Sanger was instrumental in many haematological discoveries, including the Xg blood grouping system. This system is one of the few whose genes are sex-linked i.e. linked to X chromosomes. Sanger was appointed Director of the Medical Research Council in 1973 and held this position until she retired in 1983. Finally in 1972 Ruth Sanger was recognised for her contribution to science and made a Fellow of the British Royal Society.


Education - Bachelor of Science (BSc) completed at the University of Sydney
1940 - c. 1946
Career position - Haematologist at the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service in Sydney
c. 1946 - c. 1972
Career position - Haematologist at the British Medical Research Council's blood group unit, UK
Education - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) completed at London University
Career position - Blood Groups in Man released
Career position - Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), London
Award - Oliver Memorial Award for Blood Transfusion received from the British Red Cross
1973 - 1983
Career position - Director of the British Medical Research Council

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions

Newspaper Articles

  • Smith, Bridie, 'Obituary: Dr Ruth Sanger, Blood research pioneer, author', The Age (2001). Details


Ailie Smith