Controlling Life: Jacques Loeb and the Engineering Ideal in Biology

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The first U.S. nominee for the Nobel Prize, Jacques Loeb was trained in experimental physiology in Germany, joined the biology faculty of the new University of Chicago in 1892, later taught at the University of California at Berkeley and then moved to the Rockefeller Institute. Loeb's career provides the vehicle, in this book, for an examination of the foundations of biotechnology.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Superb . . . . Rarely does a scientific biography so clearly illumine deep and long-lasting ideological differences in the conduct of scientific work." —The New York Review of Books

"In this highly imaginative and meticulously researched biography, the emphasis is not so much on Loeb's more striking achievements, but on the extent to which he pioneered and proselytized a new approach to living matter—called, by Pauly, the 'engineering ideal'....A fascinating and scholarly book that blends detailed archival research with sensitive contextual analysis of laboratories and university systems in the U.S. and Germany. It both complements and contrasts with other studies of scientists from this period."—The Times Higher Education Supplement

"This extremely well written and well researched book provides a comprehensive history of one of biology's most important figures....A rich mine of information and an extremely thought-provoking analysis of the engineering ideal and of the life of one of its founding fathers. Controlling Life is an excellent example of the relevance of the history of biology to the understanding of the foundations of modern biology."—Cell

"Few scientists of the past century have excited more passion and popular interest than Jacques Loeb...It is remarkable that Loeb has received little attention from biographers; it is more remarkable that this, the first book-length biography of Loeb, succeeds so richly in capturing not only the details of his life but also the meaning and implications of his work...Loeb's career touches upon such familiar issues in the history of science as the development of experimental biology, the conflict between mechanism and vitalism, and the rise of American universities as centers of research. Pauly handles these with a deftness and good judgment that inspire admiration . . . . Pauly's ambitious and rewarding effort to understand the origins of biotechnology deserves applause and a wide readership." —Science

"Pauly does a masterful job of presenting Loeb in his scientific and cultural context....The book is a model of scholarly integrity and intuition, and will inspire historians and biologists alike."—The Scientist

"This highly topical and fascinating book deals essentially with the historical roots of biotechnology. Pauly weaves a rich fabric by integrating Loeb's career and his ideas into the social and political world of science and medicine in late 19th-century Germany and early 20th-century America....Recommended for college and university history of science collections."—Choice

"Pauly's study of the life of the physiologist Jacques Loeb and of his influence in the United States is a remarkable tour de force which opens up a fresh chapter in the history of modern biology. The style is lively, the organization clear, and the impressive support from documents is successfully compressed within the notes so as to relieve the pressure on the main text." —Nature

"A superb portrait." —Hastings Center Report

"An excellent, scholarly biography." —New Scientist

"Pauly's book brings that rare combination of excellent narrative, provocative subject matter, a well-argued thesis, and a wealth of solid informative data. This new Oxford monographic series has produced a real gem in this well-edited and virtually error-free volume, which at most any educated reader should find extremely valuable and enjoyable to read." —Journal of the History of Biology

A paper reprint of the 1987 edition. A history of the intellectual life of biologist Loeb 1859-1924. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Philip J. Pauly is Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers University.

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Table of Contents

1. The Shaping of a Biologist
2. The Engineering Standpoint
3. New American Environments
4. Evolution and Experimentation
5. The Invention of Artificial Parthenogenesis
6. Investigating Animal Behavior
7. The Problems of a Mechanistic Conception of Life
8. The Loebian Influence in American Biology

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