Overheated Rats, Race, and the Double Gland: Paul Kammerer, Endocrinology and the Problem of Somatic Induction
Journal of the History of Biology 40 (4):683 - 725 (2007)
|Abstract||In 1920, Eugen Steinach and Paul Kammerer reported experiments showing that exposure to high temperatures altered the structure of the gonad and produced hyper-sexuality in "heat rats," presumably as a result of the increased production of sex hormones. Using Steinach's evidence that the gonad is a double gland with distinct sexual and generative functions, they used their findings to explain "racial" differences in the sexuality of indigenous tropical peoples and Europeans. The authors also reported that heat induced anatomical changes in the interstitial cells of the gonad were inherited by the heat rats' descendants. Kammerer used this finding to link endocrinology to his long-standing interest in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. The heat rats supported his hypothesis that the interstitial cells of the double gland were the mechanism of somatic induction in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. The Steinach-Kammerer collaboration, Kammerer's use of Steinach's "puberty gland" to explain somatic induction, and his endocrine analysis of symbiosis reveal Paul Kammerer's late career attempt to integrate endocrinology and genetics with the political ideals of Austrian socialism. With them he developed a bioethics that challenged the growing reliance on race in eugenics and instead promoted cooperation over competition in evolution. I relate his attempt to the controversies surrounding the interstitial cells, to the status of extra-nuclear theories of heredity, and to Kammerer's commitment to Austromarxist social reforms during the interwar period.|
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