ISBN-10:
0674013336
ISBN-13:
9780674013339
Pub. Date:
06/15/2004
Publisher:
Harvard
The Man Who Invented the Chromosome: A Life of Cyril Darlington

The Man Who Invented the Chromosome: A Life of Cyril Darlington

by Oren Solomon HarmanOren Solomon Harman
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Overview

Born by mistake, or connivance, to struggling parents in a small Lancashire cotton town in 1903, an uninspired Darlington inadvertently escaped the obscurity of farming life and rose instead, against all odds, to become within a few short years the world's greatest expert on chromosomes, and one of the most penetrating biological thinkers of the twentieth century. Harman follows Darlington's path from bleak prospects to world fame, showing how, within the most miniscule of worlds, he sought answers to the biggest questions—how species originate, how variation occurs, how Nature, both blind and foreboding, random and insightful, makes her way from deep past to unknown future. But Darlington did not stop there: Chromosomes held within their tiny confines untold, dark truths about man and his culture. This passionate conviction led the once famed Darlington down a path of rebuke, isolation, and finally obscurity.

As The Man Who Invented the Chromosome unfolds Darlington's forgotten tale—the Nazi atrocities, the Cold War, the crackpot Lysenko, the molecular revolution, eugenics, Civil Rights, the welfare state, the changing views of man's place in nature, biological determinism—all were interconnected. Just as Darlington's work provoked him to ask questions about the link between biology and culture, his life raises fundamental questions about the link between science and society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674013339
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 06/15/2004
Pages: 342
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Oren Solomon Harman is Lady Davis Fellow at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University.

Table of Contents

Introduction

I. Adventures in Lancashire

1. An Improbable Birth

2. A Rising Tide

3. Auspicious Beginnings

4. In Search of Tulips and Truth

II. Science

5. From Cytology to Evolution

6. Roots of a Scientific Controversy

7. Method, Discipline and Character

Interlude

III. Politics

8. The Lysenko Affair

9. Marxism and the Slaying of a Mentor

10. Science in a Changing World

IV. Man

11. The Conflict of Science and Society

12. On the Determination of Uncertainty

13. The Breakdown of Classical Genetics

14. On the Uncertainty of Determination

15. One Final Hurrah

Conclusion: Paradoxes

Bibliography

Index

What People are Saying About This

Highly original and brilliantly accomplished, this is the first scholarly biography of Darlington and a richly effective one. Harman has based it on Darlington's diaries, letters, and other papers, on extensive reading in other primary sources, and on authoritative knowledge of the secondary literature. The author wears his learning lightly, deftly integrating his research into a highly readable, engaging, and lucid narrative. It will surely find an appreciative audience among geneticists, evolutionary biologists, and cytologists as well as among historians of those fields and of eugenics.

Daniel J. Kevles

Highly original and brilliantly accomplished, this is the first scholarly biography of Darlington and a richly effective one. Harman has based it on Darlington's diaries, letters, and other papers, on extensive reading in other primary sources, and on authoritative knowledge of the secondary literature. The author wears his learning lightly, deftly integrating his research into a highly readable, engaging, and lucid narrative. It will surely find an appreciative audience among geneticists, evolutionary biologists, and cytologists as well as among historians of those fields and of eugenics.
Daniel J. Kevles, author of The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science, and Character

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The Man Who Invented the Chromosome: A Life of Cyril Darlington 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
DonSiano on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This biography of Cyril Darlington is of a renowned scientist who enjoyed a long career, first as a microscopist exploring the workings of the chromosome, then as a leader in the fight against Lamarckism, Lysenkoism, Marxism, and suppositions on the equality of men. His early career was built primarily on a book, "Recent Advances in Cytology" which brought together a coherent picture of the chromosomes and their role in evolution. Perhaps a key insight, new with him, was that though the chromosomes contained the hereditary information, they could be understood better by seeing how evolution affected them as well. Darlington was a confirmed materialist, hard headed scientist, but was positively attracted by controversy, and a rather intolerant, arrogant character to boot. He had many enemies, but was a forceful and prominent public voice, who relished his role. This combination makes for a lively biography, and deserves serious consideration by anyone interested in the history of the development of the "modern synthesis" of evolutionary thought. He was a driving force for much of it. Darlington was during the 1940's to the 1980's a sort of early version of Richard Dawkins, and was opposed for many years by JBS Haldane, who was a sort of early version of Stephen Jay Gould. Many of the controversies, being rooted in deep-seated views of human nature, have hardly changed. There is the Marxist version of a faith in the malleability of man by wishful thinking, opposed by hard lessons drawn from science, evolutionary theory and the observation that man is a creature acting in accordance with hereditary behaviors which have developed differently in different races. Not for Darlington the notion that race is a "social construct" or that IQ is a "reified" useless hypotheis, the same for all races. He was a sociobiologist well before the term was invented. The first part of the book that deals with Darlingtons cytogenetics is not the easiest read, dealing as it does with a pretty arcane subject in perhaps a little too much detail, even for the informed reader. The old controversies about such things as parsynapsis vs telosynapsis, are enfolded in a vocabulary that will be intimidating to many readers. I wish, though, that he had covered in a little more detail the methods of cytogenetics, the stains used, the sample preparation methods, and so on. Just how hard was it to prepare an informative experiment? A little more about the influence of Darlington's cytological insights on the conventional modern practice of the art would have been welcome too. No matter--skip on to the major part of the book where Harman covers the course of the debate over the nature of man and the insights brought by an evolutionary perspective. The meat of the book is here. In his later years, as for all scientists who live a long time, the main developments in his science began to become too much for him--molecular biology, psychometrics, and a bevy of new techniques were to add much that he could appreciate, but could contribute very little. Exploring the big picture, speculating, theorizing and publicizing became his game, and we are better off for it. Harman has done a splendid job in this biography--he writes clearly, and has a very good understanding of his subject. It is based on exhaustive research and interviews and will be the definitive work for a long time. The many pictures bring the story to life, and make for a lively read. I enjoyed the book a lot and even re-read much of it for a second time!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anyone who loves history, biography, and science, should not miss this elegant and intelligent book. It details the life and times of one of the twentieth century's most provacative, controversial, and brilliant scientific minds, a man who believed that the tiny chromosomes held untold secrets relevant to the understanding of culture and human history. Most enthusiastically recommended! You will come out feeling much smarter than you did coming in!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am not a scientist, but very much enjoy biographies. I read this book on a friend's recommendation, and literally could not stop turning the pages. Darlington, the man and the scientist, is truly brought to life on these pages. I found the story behind Harman's 'unlikely scientific hero' consistently engaging. The author does a superb job of seamlessly weaving together the many colorful strands of the social and scientific fabric that served as backdrop to Darlington.s life. With Harman as a guide, the reader gains a unique first-hand appreciation for Darlington's days, reliving them as heady times for genetics in particular and for society as a whole.