A History of Genetics in the 20th Century


After a brief survey of pre-twentieth-century theories of heredity, this course examines the work of Gregor Mendel and its rediscovery in 1900, and its expansion as an interfield theory in combination with the chromosome theory, pioneered beginning in 1910 by T.H. Morgan at Columbia and R.A. Emerson at Cornell, and led to the expansion of classical genetics up to World War II. The beginnings of biochemical and molecular genetics in the 1920s and 1930s developed rapidly after the war with the double-helix theory of DNA and the rise of molecular genetics. The course ends with examination of the Human Genome Project (Initiative) and the ramifications of genetic biotechnology. Throughout, emphasis is placed not only on the technical and theoretical developments comprising genetics as an epistemic field, but also on the economic, social, political and philosophical interconnections between genetics and society. Agriculture, medicine and the ideology of social control (including such movements as eugenics and Nazi race hygiene) both influenced, and were influenced by genetics, and played an integral part in the construction of the science itself. Readings are drawn from the primary and secondary literature. There is a mid-term, final and periodic student reports. Prereq: Bio 2960 and Bio 2970.
Course Attributes: FA NSM; AS NSM

Section 01

A History of Genetics in the 20th Century - 01
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