Mourant, Arthur Ernest (World of Forensic Science)
A. E. Mourant was born in the city of Jersey in the United Kingdom. He graduated from Exeter College Oxford, where he studied chemistry, with a specialization in crystallography. He obtained a doctorate (PhD) in geology from Leeds University in 1931. In 1933, Mourant founded the Jersey Chemical Pathology Laboratory, which he ran until 1938. At that point, he decided to become a psychoanalyst and moved to London to undergo his own preparatory psychoanalysis training; he began medical studies at St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College in London in 1939. During the course of his medical studies, he developed a strong interest in hematology and changed the direction of his career. Mourant completed his coursework in 1943 and was appointed to the position of Medical Officer in the National Blood Transfusion Service in 1944.
Mourant began researching blood serum; this led to his discovery of the antibody anti-e and his work on the Rhesus system, the Lewis factor in blood grouping, his co-discovery of the Kell factor, and his work on the creation of the antiglobulin test with Race and Coombs. Mourant's discovery of the antibody anti-e was of forensic importance in establishing the three-factor system of Rh blood typing. As a result of his finding of an antibody that reacted with the Lewis system, he was credited with the first publication documenting the Lewis blood grouping system in 1946. There are two genes associated with the Lewis Blood Grouping system: the Lewis gene and the secretor gene. Mourant also shared in the discovery of the Kell system, which has been found to be comprised of twenty-two different blood group antigens, some of which are associated with allelic genes. An important forensic aspect of the Kell system is its relationship to certain specific racial groups: the more specifically biological evidence is able to point to (or exclude) a suspect, the more likely it will be to successfully identify an individual perpetrator, to link crimes, and to achieve successful (and accurate) criminal prosecution.
Mourant authored numerous forensically important hematology texts, the most well-known of which are: The Distribution of Human Blood Groups and Other Biochemical Polymorphisms (1953), The ABO Blood Groups and Maps of World Distribution (1958), Blood Group and Disease (1978) and Blood Relations, Blood Groups and Anthropology (1985).
In 1945, Mourant became the Medical Officer at the Galton Laboratory Serum Unit; in 1946 he accepted the Directorship of the Medical Research Council's Blood Group Reference Laboratory at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, where he remained until 1965. In 1952, the World Health Organization named the Laboratory as their International Blood Group Reference Laboratory.
Over time, Mourant's interests turned progressively more to anthropology. He published two forensically important books about human blood group distribution worldwide: in 1953 he published The Distribution of Human Blood Groups and Other Biochemical Polymorphisms, and in 1958 he published The ABO Blood Groups and Maps of World Distribution. Of particular forensic significance is the suggestion by Mourant that specific geographic areas and their populations could be associated with particular blood groups and blood types. By so stating, he was indicating that it might be possible to pinpoint the race or geographic origin of an unknown suspect by means of blood typing and blood group analysis. This is of scientific significance because the more specifically it is possible to define an unknown suspect, the more likely it will be to identify (or rule out) an individual.
SEE ALSO Antibody; Anthropology; Blood; Serology; Serum.