Wahlund and Dag Lindgren's grandfather

 

The individual Swede, which is probably best internationally known from quantitative genetic text books, is Wahlund, as he gave his name to the concept "the Wahlund effect". This effect is relevant for the work I do now. There are relations between me and Wahlund, which are quite coincidental and has nothing to do with that I now carry out research related to the Wahlund effect. I have decided to document this relationship.

 

My contact with Sten Wahlund as young

Let us look on me when I was around twenty-two years old. I had no interest at all in genetics or forestry, I intended to become some sort of physicist. I knew a son of Sten Wahlund, Lars-Gustav (who died rather young). I played bridge with him, we owned a boat together (10 boys), and I visited his home maybe 20 times. I had been on a seminar about the population crises by Sten Wahlund in a small group. I was quite fascinated by him and still remember things he said. He has personally contributed to that I still see the over-population as mankind's key problem. He was chain-smoking cigars. He moved badly and always used cabs for transportation. I felt he was remarkable bad looking (fluffy, badly managed, fat appearance). I remember at two occasions he made personal comments to me in his home. He was a Member of Parliament and took home pencils each day with "parliament" written on them, I grabbed some, which kept me adequately supplied with pencils for several years. I knew that my mother knew Sten Wahlund's wife (Aina-Sophia).

 

Karl-Arvid Edin, my grandfather

My maternal grand father was named Karl-Arvid Edin. He was born 1880 in Piteå and moved 1898 to Uppsala as a student got his PhD 1910 and was acting professor in statistics in Uppsala 1911-1924. He was also teacher at Stockholm University and ended as byråchef at Statistiska centralbyrån (state demographer), although he was in the same time acting as an (associated) professor in Statistics at Stockholm University around 1922-1937. He died 1938. He lived at Kåbo in Uppsala and had office in the house between the churches (there me daughter studied half a year 1998 and hundred meters from there my father had an office for around 15 years) in central Uppsala. The family moved 1922 from Uppsala to Stockholm (Djursholm). For me it is interesting and remarkable that one of the central themes in his scientific work was fertility variation (like in my recent work!), but his focus was on descriptive demography, like the fertility variations over time and by status in the Swedish population. He combined it with his other major subject, history. Life stories for each member in a whole population was constructed from the records of the church (the church kept track of the complete Swedish population till quite recently), and from that demographic fertility data were derived (among other things). Some current demographers has said that he is regarded as one of the pioneers in his field.

 

Sten Wahlund

Sten G W Wahlund was born 1901 and moved as a student to Uppsala 1919. He got his BSc in Uppsala 1924 and PhD 1933. His main scientific work was at the (now rather badly reputed) institute of race biology in Uppsala and the main scientific focus the demography of the Swedish "Lapps".  He later become one of the most important politicians in the "centre" party (bondeförbundet, senare centerpartiet) and took part in many committees (e.g. about Skogstaxering; he also lead an alternative at a Swedish referendum about retirement funding).

 

Links between Wahlund and my grandfather

My uncle and mother say that it was important ties between my grandfather and Wahlund. They remember him from the time around 1921 appearing in their home (but remember they were small children at that time). He must have got some assistant job (amanuensis) connecting to my grandfather soon after arriving to Uppsala and my grand-father functioned as supervisor and mentor to the young Wahlund. Wahlund replaced my grandfather as professor of statistics at Stockholm University (both had the job at part time, Wahlund shared it with demographer of Stockhom city). Both had ties both in Uppsala and Stockholm, both served for part of their carrier as professors in statistics with demographic focus, and the professional contacts may well have been rather intensive till around 1935. My grandfather set up a unit employing Sten Wahlund and (as secretary) the women, who become his wife. My grandparents set up the wedding party for them.  My maternal grandmother was at Wahlund's dissertation and was complimented for being so interested so she made notes, when actually she was managing some other business (she was very well-organised, so I can easily understand that she did not want to loose the time passively pretending listening on something she did not understand). My mother's home as a child is very close to where Wahlund later lived; maybe he lived there earlier also?) My mother worked some months for Wahlund (mainly managing "arkivarbetare", and also evaluating votes at an election under his supervision).

 

The Wahlund effect

I cite Bengtsson 1999, "Genetik och Politik".

"Men utan att ta till för starka ord kan man ändå kalla resultatet" …av rasbiologiska institutets forskning… "för blind empirism av sämsta slag. Men detta är inte hela sanningen. Det finns åtminstone ett resultat till från en artikel publicerad av institutets dåvarande statistiker, senare känd Stockhomsprofessor och en av Bondeförbundets förgrundsgestalter. Uppsatsen var lång och trycktes 1928 i de svenska genetikernas internationella tidskrift Hereditas med den imponerande titeln "Zusammensettzung von Populationen und Korrelationserscheinungen vom Standpunkt der Vererbungslehre Ausbetraktet"… "I uppsatsen undersöker Wahlund vad som händer om något man betraktar som en enhetlig population egentligen består av en blandning av olika delpopulationer. Wahlund behandlar sitt problem generellt och abstrakt med många formler och mycket matematik, så det är inte lätt att omedelbart förstå vad han är ute efter. Men det är rimligt att tro att han i grunden diskuterar huruvida det över huvud taget är korrekt att tala om en samisk befolkning i Sverige;"… "Mitt bland alla formler presenterar han en enkel formulering av hur proportionen med olika genkombinationer beror på samhällets populationsstruktur - en formel där ett variansuttryck ingår. Och se, denna matematiska formel, med utnyttjande av vad som på engelska kommit att kallas Wahlund's variance , har blivit standardsättet att i genetiken beskriva geografiskt strukturerade arter. Öppnar man en textbok i populationsgenetik, den må vara fransk, tysk, amerikansk eller japansk, så kan man vara nästan säker på att det där står något om Wahlunds varians. Faktum är således att genom Wahlunds artikel gav den svenska rasbiologin ett bestående bidrag till den internationella genetiska forskningen."

In essence; the lasting scientific contribution from the Swedish race biology research was the association of Wahlund's name to a mathematical concept for describing population structure when a population consists of subpopulations.

 

Reflections

There are similarities between Wahlund's important article and my grandfathers scientific emphases, so I think one of the factors behind is inspiration and influence from my grandfather.

I and my group now intensively discuss ways of describing population structure (FST, status number, group coancestry among or within groups). Wahlund's variance has a place in this debate (we ought probably to cite it). It is interesting what type of links can be found when one starts to turn the rocks.

 

Web studies

I searched for Sten Wahlund on the web. Most (80%) of the hits are to his son who is an artist. Maybe four links (including this document) referring to him as an important scientist,

I give two of them

http://www.imbs.mu-luebeck.de/kolloq/wienker.pdf

http://jnason.botany.iastate.edu/bot567x/bot567x_materials/Lec05%20Folder/Lec05%20-%20Pop%20subdivision.pdf

There may be four to his role as a politician and six linking him in a negative sense to his role in the unfortunate race biology effort.

I searched for Karl-Arvid Edin and got 8 hits (all to him, but including this document), indicating that he was regarded as a pioneer in his field, but partly because historic descriptions on demographic matters may be actual also for current researchers.

 

I found the following passage on  http://www.tvarsnitt.vr.se/tvarsnittjoel/huset/huvudmeny/nummer183/ettgammaltsvensktamne.4.375c2a0511c0e84e40a80001432.html;jsessionid=EE810A8D993635D8275C484BA88B3455?sv.url=12.41c4c50b1195b50750780003336&kommentera=true

 

Nummer 1:83

Lars-Göran Tedebrand

Edin och Heckscher


Trots sitt spårsinne och sin demokratiska historiesyn sökte sig Sundbärg aldrig nedanför den aggregerade statistikens informationer. Först hans elev, Karl Arvid Edin, kom på 1910- och 1920-talen att bearbeta persondata i äldre husförhörslängder och ministerialböcker, i vissa fall ända ned i 1640-talet. Långt före 1950-talets uppmärksammade franska familjerekonstruktionsteknik byggde Edin familjer ur gamla kyrkoböcker. Redan 1915 skrev han: "Den enda fullt effektiva metoden att för längre perioder, enkannerligen för tiden före tabellverkstiden, mäta den äktenskapliga fruktsamhetens växlingar torde vara den ytterst mödosamma att följa hvarje barn från dess födelse till dess död i alla de olika kyrkböckerna. delvis också i närliggande socknars, och anteckna alla familjestatistiskt intressanta händelser. För samtliga födelser, vigslar, och dödsfall... har jag låtit utskrifva en kartolin och på denna infört allt af intresse från de öfvriga." Men Edins lokalstudier i äktenskaplig fruktsamhet, som ger honom en plats bland historiedemografins pionjärer, rönte inte någon uppskattning i samtiden och förblev länge en bortglömd parentes. Hans egna forskningar kom att orienteras mot differentiell fruktsamhet under mellankrigstiden, en forskningsinriktning som senare fullföljts av statistiker som Sven Wicksell och Eva Bernhardt.

 

Last edit 13-01-10