March 29, 1920

(Norwich, Connecticut )


December 17, 2014


MDCM, McGill University (1950)

PhD, McGill University (1945)

Awards & Honours:

2010: DSc Honoris Causa, McGill University

1999: The Wilder Penfield Prix de Quebec

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Picture of F. Clarke Fraser

The Father of Medical Genetics in Canada

Dr. F. Clarke Fraser

An innovative biomedical pioneer

At a young age, Dr. Clarke Fraser harboured a desire to become a physician but when he attended Acadia University to study biology, he was captivated by genetics. Not wanting to abandon his earlier dream, Dr. Fraser became a fearless groundbreaker to merge his two intellectual passions. Before Dr. Fraser took the stage, genetics and medicine were two very separate fields. There was no vision for the potential of genetics in human medicine. At only 30 years of age, he became the founder of the Department of Medical Genetics at the Montreal Children’s Hospital – the first of its kind in a Canadian paediatric hospital.

Key Facts

Co-Authored several textbooks, many of which are still in use today

Served as president of the major North American societies in genetics and teratology and won almost every award in his field

Pioneered work in the genetics of cleft palate and popularized the concept of multifactorial disease

Published more than 200 works dealing with the genetics of congenital malformations in mice and humans

Co-founded and co-directed the Medical Research Council of Canada Group in Medical Genetics, the longest lasting group in the history of the MRC

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Dr. Fraser was an iconic figure in Canadian medicine, as well as a biomedical pioneer, a fine teacher, and an outstanding scientist. By introducing genetics to medicine, he opened a world of possibilities for medical research and advancement. As a former colleague wrote, Dr. Fraser, “had an influence on almost every area of North American human and medical genetics thought and practice.” But Dr. Fraser’s contributions reached far beyond the lab to the very lives of patients everywhere. His gentle, compassionate approach was much appreciated by his patients and he passed this warmth and understanding onto a succession of graduate students, physicians and genetic counsellors in both Canada and the United States.

Old Picture of F. Clarke Fraser


  • Frank Clarke Fraser inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Toronto, Ontario

  • Dr. Fraser published Your Genealogy Affects Your Health to help spread awareness of medical genetics research to the wider public.

  • The annual Clarke Fraser Award for Young Researchers was instituted by the Teratology Society.

  • The Department of Genetics at the Montreal Children’s Hospital was renamed the “F. Clarke Fraser Clinical Genetics Centre”

  • Dr. Fraser headed the working group on genetics and prenatal diagnosis of the Canadian Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies

  • Dr. Fraser began his tenure as President of the American Society of Human Genetics

    The following year he would serve as the President of the Teratological Society and later, in the 1980s, as President of the Canadian College of Medical Geneticists.

  • After only two years at McGill, Dr. Clarke Fraser founded the first Canadian medical genetics department in a paediatric hospital, the Montreal Children’s Hospital

    Leadership in Organizational Development

    For the next 32 years, he served as the department’s director and as professor of human genetics at McGill.

  • After graduating medical school, Dr. Fraser joined McGill University as an Assistant Professor of Genetics

  • Dr. F. Clarke Fraser

    Dr. Fraser attended McGill University where he completed a Master’s of Science in 1941 and a PhD in genetics in 1945

    Keen to apply his knowledge of genetics to human conditions, he entered medical school at McGill.


He was one of the premier scientists in the medical history of Canada.