Introduction and Institutionalization of Genetics in Mexico Ana Barahona, Susana Pinar and Francisco J. Ayala

Journal of the History of Biology 38 (2):273-299 (2005)
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Abstract

We explore the distinctive characteristics of Mexico's society, politics and history that impacted the establishment of genetics in Mexico, as a new disciplinary field that began in the early 20th century and was consolidated and institutionalized in the second half. We identify about three stages in the institutionalization of genetics in Mexico. The first stage can be characterized by Edmundo Taboada, who was the leader of a research program initiated during the Cárdenas government (1934-1940), which was primarily directed towards improving the condition of small Mexican farmers. Taboada is the first Mexican post-graduate investigator in phytotechnology and phytopathology, trained at Cornell University and the University of Minnesota, in 1932 and 1933, respectively. He was the first investigator to teach plant genetics at the National School of Agriculture and wrote the first textbook of general genetics, Genetics Notes, in 1938. Taboada's most important single genetics contribution was the production of "stabilized" corn varieties. The extensive exile of Spanish intellectuals to Mexico, after the end of Spain's Civil War (1936-1939), had a major influence in Mexican science and characterizes the second stage. The three main personalities contributing to Mexican genetics are Federico Bonet de Marco and Bibiano Fernández Osorio Tafall, at the National School of Biological Sciences, and José Luis de la Loma y Oteyza, at the Chapingo Agriculture School. The main contribution of the Spanish exiles to the introduction of genetics in Mexico concerned teaching. They introduced in several universities genetics as a distinctive discipline within the biology curriculum and wrote genetics text books and manuals. The third stage is identified with Alfonso León de Garay, who founded the Genetics and Radiobiology Program in 1960 within the National Commission of Nuclear Energy, which had been founded in 1956. The Genetics and Radiobiology Program rapidly became a disciplinary program, for it embraced research, teaching, and training of academics and technicians. The Mexican Genetics Society, created by de Garay in 1966, and the development of strains and cultures for genetics research were important activities. One of de Garay's key requirements was the compulsory training of the Program's scientists for at least one or two years in the best universities of the United States and Europe. De Garay's role in the development of Mexican genetics was fundamental. His broad vision encompassed the practice of genetics in all its manifestations.

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