ISBN-10:
0674032276
ISBN-13:
9780674032279
Pub. Date:
05/01/2009
Publisher:
Harvard
A Guinea Pig's History of Biology

A Guinea Pig's History of Biology

by Jim Endersby

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Overview

A Guinea Pig's History of Biology

"Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved," Darwin famously concluded The Origin of Species, and for confirmation we look to...the guinea pig? How this curious creature and others as humble (and as fast-breeding) have helped unlock the mystery of inheritance is the unlikely story Jim Endersby tells in this book.

Biology today promises everything from better foods or cures for common diseases to the alarming prospect of redesigning life itself. Looking at the organisms that have made all this possible gives us a new way of understanding how we got here—and perhaps of thinking about where we're going. Instead of a history of which great scientists had which great ideas, this story of passionflowers and hawkweeds, of zebra fish and viruses, offers a bird's (or rodent's) eye view of the work that makes science possible.

Mixing the celebrities of genetics, like the fruit fly, with forgotten players such as the evening primrose, the book follows the unfolding history of biological inheritance from Aristotle's search for the "universal, absolute truth of fishiness" to the apparently absurd speculations of eighteenth-century natural philosophers to the spectacular findings of our day—which may prove to be the absurdities of tomorrow.

The result is a quirky, enlightening, and thoroughly engaging perspective on the history of heredity and genetics, tracing the slow, uncertain path—complete with entertaining diversions and dead ends—that led us from the ancient world's understanding of inheritance to modern genetics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674032279
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/01/2009
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 977,994
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Jim Endersby is a Reader in the History of Science at the University of Sussex.

Table of Contents

Preface and acknowledgements

1. Equus quaggaand Lord Morton's mare

2. Passiflora gracilis: Inside Darwin's greenhouse

3. Homo sapiens: Francis Galton's fairground attraction

4. Hieracium auricula: What Mendel did next

5. Oenothera lamarckiana: Hugo de Vries led up the primrose path

6. Drosophila melanogaster: Bananas, bottles and Bolsheviks

7. Cavia porcellus: Mathematical guinea pigs

8. Bacteriophage: The virus that revealed DNA

9. Zea mays: Incorrigible corn

10. Arabidopsis thaliana: A fruit fly for the botanists

11. Danio rerio: Seeing through zebrafish

12. OncoMouse®: Engineering organisms

Bibliography, sources and notes

Index

What People are Saying About This

Endersby has written a brilliant popular history of modern biology. Having mastered a vast scholarly literature, he expertly sets the science in its cultural context, explains difficult scientific concepts clearly, and offers a wise and entertaining account of some of the most important lines of research in the study of heredity, variation, and evolution over two centuries.

Judith Flanders

A Guinea Pig's History of Biology is a fascinatingly different take on the history of evolution, showing how science developed as a complex and fruitful interaction between individuals and the scientific world. As entertaining as it is enlightening.

Judith Flanders, author of Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain

Simon Schaffer

In this astute, charming and witty book, Jim Endersby follows the careers of passionflowers and fruit flies, mice and fish and helps overthrow a host of myths that have beset the history of biology. He brings uncommon enthusiasm and infectious passion to his accounts of gardeners and travellers, farmers and priests. He shares his joy at gazing through microscopes at zebrafish, offers indispensable information about the roots of genetic modification and vivisection and concludes with a superbly judged exploration of the significance of campaigns around biotechnology and eugenics. This book will become a vital resource for anyone who cares about where our biological knowledge came from and why it matters so much to our future.

Simon Schaffer, Professor of History of Science, University of Cambridge

Angela Creager

The conceit of this engaging book is to tell how biologists have come to understand heredity from the point of view of some of the plants and animals that have been its central subjects. From observations made in the stable and greenhouse--of Arabian mares and passionflowers--Endersby traces the development of a model organism's approach to biology in the modern laboratory, culminating in chapters on Zebrafish and Arabidopsis. More truly a history of genetics than a history of biology, the book is illuminating and entertaining throughout.

Angela Creager, Princeton University

Sharon E. Kingsland

Endersby has written a brilliant popular history of modern biology. Having mastered a vast scholarly literature, he expertly sets the science in its cultural context, explains difficult scientific concepts clearly, and offers a wise and entertaining account of some of the most important lines of research in the study of heredity, variation, and evolution over two centuries.

Sharon E. Kingsland, author of Modelling Nature: Episodes in the History of Population Ecology

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