In 1990, researcher Jane Hurst and her colleagues published “An Extended Family With a Dominantly Inherited Speech Disorder,” in which they proposed that a single gene was responsible for a language disorder across three generations of a family. Affected individuals of the family, called the KE family, had difficulty producing, expressing and comprehending speech. Hurst and her team studied the KE family and the disorder at the Department of Clinical Genetics at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, England. Their report was subsequently published in the journal Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology in 1990. The authors’ conclusions helped researchers better describe and explain language as a developmental and biological phenomenon and led later researchers to discover the proposed gene, mutations to which caused the language disorder.
Simon Edward Fisher studied the genes that control speech and language in England and the Netherlands in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In 2001, Fisher co-discovered the FOXP2 gene with Cecilia Lai, a gene related to language acquisition in humans and vocalization in other mammals. When damaged, the human version of the gene leads to language disorders that disrupt language and speech skills. Fisher's discovery validated the hypothesis that genes influence language, resulting in further investigations of language disorders and their heritability. Fisher's research enabled scientists to better study how genetics play a role in speech, language, and human behavior.