A Cultural History of Heredity

A Cultural History of Heredity Image

“Thought-provoking…any scientist interested in genetics will find this an enlightening look at the history of this field.”—Quarterly Review of Biology
 
It was only around 1800 that heredity began to enter debates among physicians, breeders, and naturalists. Soon thereafter, it evolved into one of the most fundamental concepts of biology.
 
Here, Staffan Muller-Wille and Hans-Jorg Rheinberger offer a succinct cultural history of the scientific concept of heredity. They outline the dramatic changes the idea has undergone since the early modern period and describe the political and technological developments that brought about these changes. They begin with an account of premodern theories of generation, showing that these were concerned with the procreation of individuals rather than with hereditary transmission, and reveal that when hereditarian thinking first emerged, it did so in a variety of cultural domains, such as politics and law, medicine, natural history, breeding, and anthropology.
 
The authors then track theories of heredity from the late nineteenth century—when leading biologists considered it in light of growing societal concerns with race and eugenics—through the rise of classical and molecular genetics in the twentieth century, to today, as researchers apply sophisticated information technologies to understand heredity. What we come to see from this exquisite history is why it took such a long time for heredity to become a prominent concept in the life sciences, and why it gained such overwhelming importance in those sciences and the broader culture over the last two centuries.

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Readers' opinions about A Cultural History of Heredity by Staffan Müller-Wille & Hans-Jörg Rheinberger

This book has reignited my passion for reading. It reminded me of the sheer joy that can be found in losing oneself in the pages of a good story. I can't wait to explore more books now.

The author's ability to evoke a wide range of emotions through their words is truly remarkable. I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster throughout the entire book.

The themes of resilience and hope resonated deeply with me. This book taught me valuable life lessons that I'll carry with me for years to come.

More by Staffan Müller-Wille & Hans-Jörg Rheinberger

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