William Clouser Boyd, American Serologist, Lectinologist, Immunochemist, Geneticist, Archeologist, Author and Educator. Born at Dearborn, Missouri. Educated at Harvard and Boston University. Professor of Immunochemistry, Boston University. Born 4 Mar 1903; died 19 Feb 1983.
With his wife Lyle, during the 1930's, Boyd made a worldwide survey of the distribution of blood types. He discovered that blood groups are inherited and not influenced by environment. By genetic analysis of the blood groups that human races are populations that differ according to their alleles. On this basis, he divided the world population into 13 geographically distinct races with different blood group gene profiles.
In the years after the First World War, Boyd compiled the abundant blood group data coming from transfusion centres throughout the world. As he did so, he saw inconsistencies of the Russia/Madagascar kind revealed by the original Herschfeld results time and again, so frequently, in fact, that he actively discouraged anthropologists from taking any notice of blood groups. Boyd quotes a letter from one frustrated correspondent: 'I tried to see what blood groups would tell me about ancient man and found the results very disappointing.' ()
He also studied the blood groups of mummies, research that was criticized because of the possible contamination with related bacterial antigens and destruction by specific bacterial enzymes. ()
After the Second World War, William Boyd's baton as compiler of blood group data from around the world passed to the Englishman Arthur Mourant.
Later, Boyd discovered Lectins, antibody-like proteins, in plants. In 1945, at the Boston University School of Medicine, Boyd discovered that lectins can be blood group specific; some lectins being able to agglutinate the red cells of one type but not those of another. He discovered that lima bean lectin would agglutinate red cells of human blood type A but not those of O or B. It was William Boyd (with Elizabeth Shapely) who also was the first to coin the term ‘lectin’ in 1954 which is Latin for legere:
"lectins, from the Latin legere, to pick or choose, intending thus to call attention to their specificity, without begging the question of their nature."()
Boyd wrote one of the first textbooks of immunology, 'Fundamentals of Immunology' in 1943. He also authored 'Genetics and the Races of Man', 1950 and 'Introduction to Immunochemical Specificity', 1962.
As far back as 1950 Boyd listed about 20 gene loci for outward appearance traits that are homozygous recessive for typical Asians and/or Europeans but are homozygous dominant for Africans. These recessive genes include the 6 to 8 gene loci for light skin color, the genes for blue eyes, gray eyes, blond hair, red hair, thin lips, straight hair, sacral spot, lack of facial hair (beards), narrow nose shape, and some others.
Even so, the unsuccessful attempts to explain human origins using blood groups had had their compensations for the liberal-minded Boyd. Boyd, teamed up with Isaac Asimov, used his work with blood types in Races and People to demolish the racist notions then commonly believed in this country during the 1950's.
Boyd and Asimov, as unabashed liberals and champions of the essential value of any human being, attack the notion of "race” and use Boyd's research to demonstrate that the superficial characteristics which so many of us use to define "race" and determine our value vis-á-vis other human beings are utterly without value.
Boyd wrote science fiction (under the name “Boyd Ellanby” ) including two well-known books,
- 'Category Phoenix', May, 1952.
- 'Chain Reaction', September, 1956.
- Brian Sykes described Boyd as 'an American physician.' Boyd in fact was a Ph.D., not an MD. ()
- One would assume that the 'Byrant' referred to in Spencer Wells' 2002 book The Journey of Man is actually Boyd: "In the 1930s an American named Bryant and an Englishman named Mourant, building on the work of the Hirszfelds, began to test blood samples from around the world. Over the next thirty years these two men and their colleagues would examine thousands of people, from hundreds of populations, both living and dead. Bryant and his wife (like the Hirszfelds, another of the marital duos in population genetics) even went so far as to test American and Egyptian mummies, establishing the ancient nature of the ABO polymorphisms."()