Blood, Paper, and Genetics
In July 1939, British citizens responded for the first time to a nationwide appeal for blood. War was threatening and the Ministry of Health hoped that a nationwide transfusion service would help mitigate the bloody effects of aerial bombardment. Responding to street posters, advertisements placed in newspapers, and radio appeals, tens of thousands of people in London, Manchester, and Bristol traveled to local hospitals to have their earlobes or fingertips punctured with needles. At recruitment centers, nurses took a few drops of each volunteer’s blood into a glass tube, diluted it in saline, and passed it to a trained serologist, who determined the donor’s “blood group”—a crucial measure to ensure compatibility between donor and transfusion recipient (...