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In Shaping Science with Rhetoric, Leah Ceccarelli addresses such questions through close readings of three scientific monographs in their historical contexts—Theodosius Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937), which inspired the "modern synthesis" of evolutionary biology; Erwin Schrödinger's What Is Life? (1944), which catalyzed the field of molecular biology; and Edward O. Wilson's Consilience (1998), a so far not entirely successful attempt to unite the social and biological sciences. She examines the rhetorical strategies used in each book and evaluates which worked best, based on the reviews and scientific papers that followed in their wake.
Ceccarelli's work will be important for anyone interested in how interdisciplinary fields are formed, from historians and rhetoricians of science to scientists themselves.
With this book a new branch of scientific investigation came of age, and many workers were induced to enter it. The book is one of the few seminal publications of its generation.
Howard Levene, Lee Ehrman, and Rollin Richmond, "Theodosius Dobzhansky up to Now"
There is no other instance in the history of science in which a short semipopular book catalyzed the future development of a great field of research.
Walter Moore, Schrodinger: Life and ThoughtSome books make an impact, not because they introduce new ideas that have never before been thought, but because they repackage ideas in a way that allows readers to see things they had previously been unable or unwilling to recognize. The two books referred to in the quotations above--Theodosius Dobzhansky's 1937 Genetics and the Origin of Species and Erwin Schrodinger's 1944 What Is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell--were such books. Both were addressed to groups of scientists from different fields who had conflicting intellectual and professional allegiances. Both were designed to help thosescientists see beyond the barriers that separated their fields, urging them to change their professional goals and enter into new interdisciplinary alliances. And both books were highly successful at what they sought to do. Dobzhansky's book has been praised for motivating biologists from various fields to overcome their deep suspicions of each other and embark on "the evolutionary synthesis," an integration of research in genetics and natural history that resulted in the modern interdisciplinary domain of evolutionary biology. Schrodinger's book has been hailed for serving a similar function as the primary motivating influence that brought physicists and biologists together to do the research that would form the discipline of molecular biology.
Excerpted from Shaping Science With Rhetoric: the Cases of Dobzhansky, Schrodinger, and Wilson by Leah Ceccarelli Copyright © 2001 by Leah Ceccarelli. Excerpted by permission.
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|I||Theodosius Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species|
|2||The Initiator of the Evolutionary Synthesis: Historians and Scientist Weigh In||13|
|3||A Text Rhetorically Designed to Unite Competing Fields||31|
|II||Erwin Schrodinger's What Is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell|
|4||The "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of the Molecular Biology Revolution: Assessing the Place of a Text in History||61|
|5||A Text Rhetorically Designed to Negotiate Different Interests and Beliefs||82|
|III||Edward O. Wilson's Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge|
|6||The Controversy over Sociobiology: Scholars Offer Conflicting Explanations||113|
|7||A Text Rhetorically Designed to Fuel Interdisciplinary Hostilities||128|
|IV||Speaking to Multiple Audiences|
|9||Contributions to Four Ongoing Conversations||168|