Is life different from the non-living? If so, how? And how, in that case, does biology as the study of living things differ from other sciences? These questions are traced through an exploration of episodes in the history of biology and philosophy. The book begins with Aristotle, then moves on to Descartes comparing his position with that of Harvey. In the eighteenth century the authors consider Buffon and Kant. In the nineteenth century the authors examine the Cuvier-Geoffroy (...) debate, pre-Darwinian geology and natural theology, Darwin and the transition from Darwin to the revival of Mendelism. Two chapters deal with the evolutionary synthesis and such questions as the species problem, the reducibility or otherwise of biology to physics and chemistry, and the problem of biological explanation in terms of function and teleology. The final chapters reflect on the implications of the philosophy of biology for philosophy of science in general. (shrink)
My goals in this paper are twofold: to outline the refashioning of amateur and professional roles in life science in late Victorian Yorkshire, and to provide a revised historiography of the relationship between amateurs and professionals in this era. Some historical treatments of this relationship assume that amateurs were demoralized by the advances of laboratory science, and so ceased to contribute and were left behind by the autonomous "new biology." Despite this view, I show that many amateurs played a (...) vital part in the construction of a professional academic community in urban Yorkshire, and then continued to collaborate with the laboratory-based biologists. The key to any analysis of the relationship between amateurs and professionals is the great variety of amateur identities and practices in Victorian Yorkshire. The amateur-professional rift fallacy arose because laboratory biologists fashioned an identity in conscious opposition to a particular type of amateur: an ideal that belied an array of cooperative relationships. As naturalists refashioned their roles and identities in light of the changes within academe and without, debates about the practice and place of life science took place as often among amateurs as between professionals and amateurs. (shrink)
As frequently pointed out in this discussion, one of the most characteristic features of Mayr's approach to the history of biology stems from the fact that he is dealing to a considerable degree with his own professional history. Furthermore, his main criterion for the selection of historical episodes is their relevance for modern biological theory. As W. F. Bynum and others have noted, the general impression of his reviewers is that “one of the towering figures of evolutionary (...)biology has now written a towering history of his discipline.”138 Bynum is here referring to The Growth of Biological Thought, but this observation holds equally true for Mayr's other historical writings: One must surely read this book [One Long Argument] not only for its content in itself, but for what it tells of its author. And certainly as one does so, one comes away full-handed. Many, if not all, of the disputes and controversies that have driven Mayr through his long intellectual life reappear, stated as forcefully and elegantly as ever.139Up to this point, most reviewers agree; the bone of contention is, rather, how to evaluate Mayr's historical work, considering this observation. The two related characteristics of his work-I will call them subjectivity and presentism-stand in opposition to a widespread approach in the history of science exemplified by Kuhn's suggestion that “insofar as possible..., the historian should set aside the science that he knows. His science should be learned from the textbooks and journals of the period he studies.”140 There are, however, historians who consider the close connection between Mayr and the subject matter of his historical studies to be an advantage.141On the other hand, it is assumed that the connection between past and present must result in a distortion of the historical truth and lead to a historiographical fallacy, commonly referred to as “Whig history”. Herbert Butterfield, who in 1931 gave the term its now generally accepted meaning, believed that “real historical understanding is not achieved by the subordination of the past to the present, but rather by our making the past our present and attempting to see life with the eyes of another century than our own”142. Unfortunately, Butterfield's definition of what he considers Whig history remains somewhat vague, and modern authors have emphasized what they consider most important. Butterfield's “subordination of the past to the present” is referred to in respect to the selection of subjects (there are more biographies of Charles Darwin than of, let's say, Louis Agassiz),143 to the evaluation of historical authors,144 or, more generally, to all kinds of histories “with one eye, so to speak, upon the present.”145 The underlying tendency of Whig historians is to produce a “historical account told from the viewpoint of those in power,”146 leading to a “glorification of the present.”147 It is obvious that Mayr's strongly presentist approach to the history of biology can be called Whiggish, if we apply the criteria of “selection” or “reference.” However, it might be worth mentioning that the program of writing a strictly historicist account of the history of science is challenged by various authors.148 For Mayr, it is not only legitimate but necessary to compare the present situation with the past. “Whiggish” is only the evaluation of an author in terms of our time.149I cannot discuss the Whit/anti-Whig controversy in any detail here, apart from saying that Mayr has defended himself rather extensively against the charges of being Whiggish.150 Nevertheless, it may be useful to touch on some of the criticisms that are predominant in reviews of his writings. First, we encounter the notion that historians can write a true and convincing historical account only if they have no personal interest or interpretation of their own; Mayr, on the other hand, because he “has such strong interpretations of his own, ... cannot possibly convince everyone that he is right about everything.”151 It makes one wonder, what historian has ever been able to convince everyone that he or she is right about everything? But apart from this peculiar idea, it unquestionably poses certain dangers if the subject matter of historical scrutiny and the author are identical. At the same time, this identity brings certain advantages with it, especially firsthand experiences of the period in discussion. Whether these personal memories ultimately result in a distorted picture of the past has to be decided in every particular instance. The notion that a scientific study can be conducted by a completely detached observer from a neutral standpoint has been shown to be impossible in physics, and it is also an illusion in historiography. The question is not whether, but which kind of interest are the underlying motivation for a historian. At this point, Mayr is ahead of his critics when he suggests that our understanding of the past always has a subjective component: The main reason, however, why histories are in constant need of revision is that at any given time they merely reflect the present state of understanding; they depend on how the author interpreted the current zeitgeist of biology and on his own conceptual framework and background. Thus, by necessity the writing of history is subjective and ephemeral.152Second, the temporal proximity between the event and the historical analysis makes difficulties inevitable and will finally result in certain false assessments. But this applies to all historians when they discuss recent problems, regardless of whether they are personally involved or not: As long as the battle between Darwinism and Lamarckism was raging, it was quite impossible to undertake an unbiased evaluation of Lamarck. ...[The] definite refutation of Lamarck's theory of evolutionary causation clears the air. We can now study him without bias and emotion and give him the attention that this major figure in the history of biology clearly deserves.153Third, Mayr is primarily interested in biological problems and not, for instance, historiographical, sociological, or psychological questions. Several authors have remarked that since the beginning of the professionalization of the history of science in the 1960s, a rift between two groups has developed, resulting from the heterogeneous professional backgrounds and interests of the people involved: the authors who were originally biologists and became interested in the history of their discipline only later on, and the authors who were trained as historians.154 Whereas the first group, the “biologists,” tend to be laymen in history proper, the “historians” are in most cases laymen in biology. Different professional backgrounds obviously shape the historical perspective in both groups, but neither approach is necessarily superior. The great number of important books in the history of biology written by “biologist” documents how valuable this point of view can be. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that the writings of biologists in the history of science tend to have a strong “internalist” tendency and often neglect the professional, cultural, and political context of science. Mayr's approach is that of a “biologist”; it is “internalist,” and typical for scientists who turn to the history of their discipline.I want to conclude my analysis with a quotation from a review by Douglas J. Futuyma, which gives a perceptive glimpse of Mayr's personality and style: One cannot help standing in awe of the germanic capacity for vast, allembracing synthesis: consider the lifelong devotion of Goethe to Faust, or Wagner's integration of the arts into a Gesamtkunstwerk in which all of human history and experience is wrought into epic myth. It is perhaps in this tradition that Ernst Mayr's The Growth of Biological Thought stands: a history of all of biology, a Ring des Nibelungen complete with leitmotivs such as the failures of reductionism, the struggle of biology for independence from physics, and the liberation of population thinking from the bounds of essentialism.155 Within this style of thinking Mayr has “to offer...nothing less than a vision of biology that places neodarwinian evolutionary theory firmly at the centre.”156 There may be other visions of biology, but few of them have as indefatigable and able representatives as Darwinism has in Ernst Mayr. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to argue that Kant's philosophy of biology has crucial implications for our understanding of his philosophy of history, and that overlooking these implications leads to a fundamental misconstruction of his views. More precisely, I will show that Kant's philosophy of history is modelled on his philosophy of biology due to the fact that the development of the human species shares a number of peculiar features with the functioning of organisms, these (...) features entailing important methodological characteristics. From this main claim will follow three further claims: (1) Kant's teleological view of history is not simply based on ethical considerations that have to do with the moral progress of the human species; rather, it stems from his conception of teleology as developed in his philosophy of biology. (2) Kant's philosophy of history allows for the practice of scientific history. In this sense, Kant's view of history is not merely teleological but involves a mechanical (and thus empirical) element. (3) Just as teleology is useful for furthering mechanical accounts of biological phenomena, teleological history is useful for scientific history. (shrink)
Mayr has made both conceptual and professional contributions to the establishment of the history and philosophy of biology. His conceptual contributions include, among many others, the notion of population thinking. He has also played an important role in the establishment of history and philosophy of biology as viable professional disciplines.
The implementation of Project Tiger in India, 1973-1974, was justly hailed as a triumph of international environmental advocacy. It occurred as a growing number of conservation-oriented biologists were beginning to argue forcefully for scientifically managed conservation of species and ecosystems -- the same scientists who would, by the mid-1980s, call themselves conservation biologists. Although India accepted international funds to implement Project Tiger, it strictly limited research posts to Government of India Foresters, against the protests of Indian and US biologists who (...) hoped to conduct the scientific studies that would lead to better management and thus more effective conservation of the tiger. The foresters were not trained to conduct research, and in fact did not produce any of significance for the first 15 years of Project Tiger's existence. The failure of biologists to gain access to India's tigers in the 1970s was caused by many factors, but not least among them was a history of disdain among conservation-oriented biologists for government officials managing reserves, and the local politics of conservation. Project Tiger, then, serves as a case study for the discussion of the intersection of conservation biology with non-scientific concerns, including nationalism and the desire of the Indian government to more completely control its land. (shrink)
In the advertising discourse of human genetic database projects, of genetic ancestry tracing companies, and in popular books on anthropological genetics, what I refer to as the anthropological gene and genome appear as documents of human history, by far surpassing the written record and oral history in scope and accuracy as archives of our past. How did macromolecules become "documents of human evolutionary history"? Historically, molecular anthropology, a term introduced by Emile Zuckerkandl in 1962 to characterize the (...) study of primate phylogeny and human evolution on the molecular level, asserted its claim to the privilege of interpretation regarding hominoid, hominid, and human phylogeny and evolution vis-à-vis other historical sciences such as evolutionary biology, physical anthropology, and paleoanthropology. This process will be discussed on the basis of three key conferences on primate classification and evolution that brought together exponents of the respective fields and that were held in approximately ten-years intervals between the early 1960s and the 1980s. I show how the anthropological gene and genome gained their status as the most fundamental, clean, and direct records of historical information, and how the prioritizing of these epistemic objects was part of a complex involving the objectivity of numbers, logic, and mathematics, the objectivity of machines and instruments, and the objectivity seen to reside in the epistemic objects themselves. (shrink)
Recent historiography of 19th century biology supports the revision of two traditional doctrines about the history of biology. First, the most important and widespread biological debate around the time of Darwin was not evolution versus creation, but biological functionalism versus structuralism. Second, the idealist and typological structuralist theories of the time were not particularly anti-evolutionary. Typological theories provided argumentation and evidence that was crucial to the refutation of Natural Theological creationism. The contrast between functionalist and structuralist approaches (...) to biology continues today, and the historical misunderstanding of 19th century typological biology may be one of its effects. This historical case can shed light on current controversies regarding the relevance of developmental biology to evolution. (shrink)
Cloning -- the process of creating a cell, tissue line or even a complete organism from a single cell -- or the strands that led to the cloning of a mammal, Dolly, are not new. Yet the media coverage of Dolly's inception raised a range of reactions from fear or moral repulsion, to cautious optimism. The implications for controlling human reproduction were clearly in the forefront, though many issues about animals emerged as well. On topics of public interest such as (...) cloning, historians of biology have the opportunity to make a unique contribution. Such debates are often aired as if they have no precedents, either in biology or in the ethical, moral, and social concerns arising in the public arena. The technology leading to Dolly draws on strands of research going back to the 1890s, and the cycle of public response has been repeated often in the past century. What can we learn from examining these events historically, and how can we -- or should we even try -- to inform public opinion? I think we should try and will outline briefly some of the ways that can work. (shrink)
In addition to being one of the world's most influential philosophers, Aristotle can also be credited with the creation of both the science of biology and the philosophy of biology. He was the first thinker to treat the investigations of the living world as a distinct inquiry with its own special concepts and principles. This book focuses on a seminal event in the history of biology - Aristotle's delineation of a special branch of theoretical knowledge devoted (...) to the systematic investigation of animals. Aristotle approached the creation of zoology with the tools of subtle and systematic philosophies of nature and of science that were then carefully tailored to the investigation of animals. The papers collected in this volume, written by a pre-eminent figure in the field of Aristotle's philosophy and biology, examine Aristotle's approach to biological inquiry and explanation, his concepts of matter, form and kind, and his teleology. (shrink)
Understanding the ethics and politics of environmentalism, as well as predator biology, means thinking in new ways about objectivity. The history of predator biology shows how scientists order nature as they interact with non-humans. If science ultimately orders nature as its comprehends it, the implications for environmental ethics and politics, which continue to call on the authority of objective science, loom large.
In this study we have examined the reception of Mendelism in France from 1900 to 1940, and the place of some of the extra-Mendelian traditions of research that contributed to the development of genetics in France after World War II.
Biologists and historians often present natural history and molecular biology as distinct, perhaps conflicting, fields in biological research. Such accounts, although supported by abundant evidence, overlook important areas of overlap between these areas. Focusing upon examples drawn particularly from systematics and molecular evolution, I argue that naturalists and molecular biologists often share questions, methods, and forms of explanation. Acknowledging these interdisciplinary efforts provides a more balanced account of the development of biology during the post-World War II era.
A historical theory of rational norms claims that, if we are supposed to think rationally, this is because it is biologically normal for us to do so. The historical theorist is committed to the view that we are supposed to think rationally only if, in the past, adult humans sometimes thought rationally. I consider whether there is any plausible model of rational norms that can be adopted by the historical theorist that is compatible with the claim that adult human beings (...) are subject to rational norms, given certain plausible empirical assumptions about our history and capabilities. I suggest that there is one such model: this model centres on the idea that a procedure is rational if it has been endorsed (or at least not rejected) by mechanisms that have the function to ensure that the subject learns to reason in a way that approaches a certain kind of optimality. (shrink)
Links relating to the history and philosophy of biology, assembled by Roberta L. Millstein: reference works, societies, journals, historians and philosophers of biology with papers online, blogs, other resources in the history and philosophy of biology.
The writings of Joseph Henry Woodger (1894–1981) are often taken to exemplify everything that was wrongheaded, misguided, and just plain wrong with early twentieth-century philosophy of biology. Over the years, commentators have said of Woodger: (a) that he was a fervent logical empiricist who tried to impose the explanatory gold standards of physics onto biology, (b) that his philosophical work was completely disconnected from biological science, (c) that he possessed no scientific or philosophical credentials, and (...) (d) that his work was disparaged – if not altogether ignored – by the biologists and philosophers of his era. In this paper, we provide the first systematic examination of Woodger’s oeuvre, and use it to demonstrate that the four preceding claims are false. We argue that Woodger’s ideas have exerted an important influence on biology and philosophy, and submit that the current consensus on his legacy stems from a highly selective reading of his works. By rehabilitating Woodger, we hope to show that there is no good reason to continue to disregard the numerous contributions to the philosophy of biology produced in the decades prior to the professionalization of the discipline. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Freedom and the Human Sciences * The Model of Biological Science and its Implications for the Human Sciences * The Answer to the Question What Is Man? * Pragmatic Anthropology * Philosophical History * Conclusion * Bibliography Freedom and the Human Sciences * The Model of Biological Science and its Implications for the Human Sciences * The Answer to the Question What Is Man? * Pragmatic Anthropology * Philosophical History * Conclusion * Bibliography.
Alan Turing draws a firm line between the mental and the physical, between the cognitive and physical sciences. For Turing, following a tradition that went back to D=Arcy Thompson, if not Geoffroy and Lucretius, throws talk of function, intentionality, and final causes from biology as a physical science. He likens Amother nature@ to the earnest A. I. scientist, who may send to school disparate versions of the Achild machine,@ eventually hoping for a test-passer but knowing that the vagaries of (...) his experimental course are history and accident. (shrink)
The complexities of modern science are not adequately reflected in many bioethical discussions. This is especially problematic in highly contested cases where there is significant pressure to generate clinical applications fast, as in stem cell research. In those cases a more integrated approach to bioethics, which we call systems bioethics, can provide a useful framework to address ethical and policy issues. Much as systems biology brings together different experimental and methodological approaches in an integrative way, systems bioethics integrates aspects (...) of the history and philosophy of science, social and political theory, and normative analysis with the science in question. In this paper we outline how a careful analysis of the science of stem cell research can help to refocus the discussions related to the clinical applications of stem cells. We show how inaccurate or inadequate scientific assumptions help to create a set of unrealistic expectations and badly inform ethical deliberations and policy development. Systems bioethics offers resources for moving beyond the current impasse. (shrink)
Ludwik Fleck, Edmund Husserl : on the historicity of scientific knowledge -- Gaston Bachelard : the concept of "phenomenotechnique" -- Georges Canguilhem : epistemological history -- Pisum : Carl Correns's experiments on Xenia, 1896-99 -- Eudorina : Max Hartmann's experiments on biological regulation in protozoa, 1914-21 -- Ephestia : Alfred Kähn's experimental design for a developmental physiological -- Genetics, 1924-45 -- Tobacco mosaic virus : virus research at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes for Biochemistry and Biology, 1937-45 -- The (...) concept of the gene : molecular biological perspectives -- The liquid scintillation counter : traces of radioactivity -- The concept of information : the writings of François Jacob -- Intersections -- Preparations -- The economy of the scribble. (shrink)
Aristotle's biological works - constituting over 25% of his surviving corpus and for centuries largely unstudied by philosophically oriented scholars - have been the subject of an increasing amount of attention of late. This collection brings together some of the best work that has been done in this area, with the aim of exhibiting the contribution that close study of these treatises can make to the understanding of Aristotle's philosophy. The book is divided into four parts, each with an introduction (...) which places its essays in relation to each other and to the wider issues of the book as a whole. The first part is an overview of the relationship of Aristotle's biology to his philosophy; the other three each concentrate on a set of issues central to Aristotelian study - definition and demonstration; teleology and necessity in nature; and metaph themes such as the unity of matter and form and the nature of substance. (shrink)
I exhort you never to debase the moral currency or to lower the standard of rectitude, but to try others by the final maxim that governs your own lives and to suffer no man and no cause to escape the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict on wrong.2 In 1902, the year after Acton died, the president of the American Historical association, Henry Lea, in dubious celebration of his British colleague, responded to the exordium with a (...) contrary claim about the historian’s obligation, namely objectively to render the facts of history without subjective moralizing. Referring to Acton’s lecture, Lea declared. (shrink)
The renowned biologist and thinker Richard Dawkins presents his most expansive work yet: a comprehensive look at evolution, ranging from the latest developments in the field to his own provocative views. Loosely based on the form of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Dawkins's Tale takes us modern humans back through four billion years of life on our planet. As the pilgrimage progresses, we join with other organisms at the forty "rendezvous points" where we find a common ancestor. The band of pilgrims swells (...) into a vast crowd as we join first with other primates, then with other mammals, and so on back to the first primordial organism. Dawkins's brilliant, inventive approach allows us to view the connections between ourselves and all other life in a bracingly novel way. It also lets him shed bright new light on the most compelling aspects of evolutionary history and theory: sexual selection, speciation, convergent evolution, extinction, genetics, plate tectonics, geographical dispersal, and more. The Ancestor's Tale is at once a far-reaching survey of the latest, best thinking on biology and a fascinating history of life on Earth. Here Dawkins shows us how remarkable we are, how astonishing our history, and how intimate our relationship with the rest of the living world. (shrink)
“I often said before starting, that I had no doubt I should frequently repent of the whole undertaking.” So wrote Charles Darwin aboard The Beagle , bound for the Galapagos Islands and what would arguably become the greatest and most controversial discovery in scientific history. But the theory of evolution did not spring full-blown from the head of Darwin. Since the dawn of humanity, priests, philosophers, and scientists have debated the origin and development of life on earth, and with (...) modern science, that debate shifted into high gear. In this lively, deeply erudite work, Pulitzer Prize–winning science historian Edward J. Larson takes us on a guided tour of Darwin’s “dangerous idea,” from its theoretical antecedents in the early nineteenth century to the brilliant breakthroughs of Darwin and Wallace, to Watson and Crick’s stunning discovery of the DNA double helix, and to the triumphant neo-Darwinian synthesis and rising sociobiology today. Along the way, Larson expertly places the scientific upheaval of evolution in cultural perspective: the social and philosophical earthquake that was the French Revolution; the development, in England, of a laissez-faire capitalism in tune with a Darwinian ethos of “survival of the fittest”; the emergence of Social Darwinism and the dark science of eugenics against a backdrop of industrial revolution; the American Christian backlash against evolutionism that culminated in the famous Scopes trial; and on to today’s world, where religious fundamentalists litigate for the right to teach “creation science” alongside evolution in U.S. public schools, even as the theory itself continues to evolve in new and surprising directions. Throughout, Larson trains his spotlight on the lives and careers of the scientists, explorers, and eccentrics whose collaborations and competitions have driven the theory of evolution forward. Here are portraits of Cuvier, Lamarck, Darwin, Wallace, Haeckel, Galton, Huxley, Mendel, Morgan, Fisher, Dobzhansky, Watson and Crick, W. D. Hamilton, E. O. Wilson, and many others. Celebrated as one of mankind’s crowning scientific achievements and reviled as a threat to our deepest values, the theory of evolution has utterly transformed our view of life, religion, origins, and the theory itself, and remains controversial, especially in the United States (where 90% of adults do not subscribe to the full Darwinian vision). Replete with fresh material and new insights, Evolution will educate and inform while taking readers on a fascinating journey of discovery. (shrink)
Citing an 1859 letter that accused Charles Darwin of failing to acknowledge his scientific predecessors, a chronicle of the collective history of evolution dedicates each chapter to an evolutionary thinker, from Aristotle and da Vinci to ...
No other scientific theory has had as tremendous an impact on our understanding of the world as Darwin's theory as outlined in his Origin of Species, yet from the very beginning the theory has been subject to controversy. The Evolution of Darwinism focuses on three issues of debate - the nature of selection, the nature and scope of adaptation, and the question of evolutionary progress. It traces the varying interpretations to which these issues were subjected from the beginning and the (...) fierce contemporary debates that still rage on and explores their implications for the greatest questions of all: Where we come from, who we are and where we might be heading. Written in a clear and non-technical style, this book will be of use as a textbook for students in the philosophy of science who need to become familiar with the background to the debates about evolution. (shrink)
In 1853, the young Thomas Henry Huxley published a long review of German cell theory in which he roundly criticized the basic tenets of the Schleiden-Schwann model of the cell. Although historians of cytology have dismissed Huxley's criticism as based on an erroneous interpretation of cell physiology, the review is better understood as a contribution to embryology. "The Cell-theory" presents Huxley's "epigenetic" interpretation of histological organization emerging from changes in the protoplasm to replace the "preformationist" cell theory of Schleiden and (...) Schwann (as modified by Albert von Kölliker), which posited the nucleus as the seat of organic vitality. Huxley's views influenced a number of British biologists, who continued to oppose German cell theory well into the twentieth century. Yet Huxley was pivotal in introducing the new German program of "scientific zoology" to Britain in the early 1850s, championing its empiricist methodology as a means to enact broad disciplinary and institutional reforms in British natural history. (shrink)
Ernst Mayr''s historical writings began in 1935 with his essay Bernard Altum and the territory theory and have continued up through his monumentalGrowth of Biological Thought (1982) and hisOne Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought (1991). Sweeping in their scope, forceful in their interpretation, enlisted on behalf of the clarification of modern concepts and of a broad view of biology, these writings provide both insights and challenges for the historian of biology. Mayr''s general (...) intellectual formation was guided by the GermanBildung ideal, with its emphasis on synthetic and comprehensive knowledge. His understanding of how to write history was inspired further by the example of the historian of ideas Arthur Lovejoy. Some strengths and limitations of this approach are explored here through attention to Mayr''s treatment of the French biologist J.-B. Lamarck. It is contended that Mayr''s contributions to the history of biology are not restricted to his own very substantial historical writings but also include his encouragement of other scholars, his development of an invaluable archive of scientific correspondence, and his insistence that historians who write about evolution and related subjects acquire an adequate understanding of the principles of Darwinian biology. (shrink)
In the early years of Mendelism, 1900-1910, William Bateson established a productive research group consisting of women and men studying biology at Cambridge. The empirical evidence they provided through investigating the patterns of hereditary in many different species helped confirm the validity of the Mendelian laws of heredity. What has not previously been well recognized is that owing to the lack of sufficient institutional support, the group primarily relied on domestic resources to carry out their work. Members of the (...) group formed a kind of extended family unit, centered on the Batesons' home in Grantchester and the grounds of Newnham College. This case illustrates the continuing role that domestic environments played in supporting scientific research in the early 20th century. (shrink)
Stuart Kauffman: Steve is extremely bright, inventive. He thoroughly understands paleontology; he thoroughly understands evolutionary biology. He has performed an enormous service in getting people to think about punctuated equilibrium, because you see the process of stasis/sudden change, which is a puzzle. It's the cessation of change for long periods of time. Since you always have mutations, why don't things continue changing? You either have to say that the particular form is highly adapted, optimal, and exists in a stable (...) environment, or you have to be very puzzled. Steve has been enormously important in that sense. (shrink)