Murray Llewellyn Barr

Murray Llewellyn Barr, anatomist, geneticist (b at Belmont, Ont 20 June 1908; d at London, Ont 4 May 1995). A major contributor to the establishment of the science of human cytogenetics, Barr was educated at Western and was a member of its faculty 1936-77.

Barr, Murray Llewellyn

Murray Llewellyn Barr, anatomist, geneticist (b at Belmont, Ont 20 June 1908; d at London, Ont 4 May 1995). A major contributor to the establishment of the science of human cytogenetics, Barr was educated at Western and was a member of its faculty 1936-77. From 1939 to 1945 he was an RCAF wing commander. In 1949 he and E.G. Bertram codiscovered the sex chromatin now known as the Barr Body, an X-chromosome derivative, the presence of which distinguishes cells of normal females from those of normal males.

A simple buccal-smear test, introduced in 1955 with K.L. MOORE using cells rubbed from the lining of the mouth, identified persons with abnormal numbers of sex-chromosome bodies and therefore errors of the sex chromosome complex. The exact nature of these errors was then established by chromosome studies or karyotyping. This research contributed substantially to understanding the cause of various congenital syndromes.

Barr wrote The Human Nervous System and A Century of Medicine at Western. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of London, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an officer of the Order of Canada. In addition to being nominated several times for a Nobel Prize, Barr received other honours including the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr Foundation Award in Mental Retardation from US President John F. Kennedy, the Gairdner Award of Merit and numerous honorary doctorates. Barr was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1998.