The epigenetic landscape in the course of time: Conrad Hal Waddington’s methodological impact on the life sciences

Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):756-773 (2013)
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Abstract

It seems that the reception of Conrad Hal Waddington’s work never really gathered speed in mainstream biology. This paper, offering a transdisciplinary survey of approaches using his epigenetic landscape images, argues that (i) Waddington’s legacy is much broader than is usually recognized—it is widespread across the life sciences (e.g. stem cell biology, developmental psychology and cultural anthropology). In addition, I will show that (ii) there exist as yet unrecognized heuristic roles, especially in model building and theory formation, which Waddington’s images play within his work. These different methodological facets envisioned by Waddington are used as a natural framework to analyze and classify the manners of usage of epigenetic landscape images in post-Waddingtonian ‘landscape approaches’. This evaluation of Waddington’s pictorial legacy reveals that there are highly diverse lines of traditions in the life sciences, which are deeply rooted in Waddington’s methodological work.

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Jan Baedke
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Citations of this work

Genidentity and Biological Processes.Thomas Pradeu - 2018 - In Daniel J. Nicholson & John Dupre (eds.), Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology. Oxford University Press.
Epigenetics: A Way to Bridge the Gap Between Biological Fields.Antonine Nicoglou & Francesca Merlin - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 66:73-82.
The Environment: An Ambiguous Concept in Waddington's Biology.Laurent Loison - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 91:181-190.

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