The Black Box of Biology: A History of the Molecular Revolution

The Black Box of Biology: A History of the Molecular Revolution


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In this masterful account, a historian of science surveys the molecular biology revolution, its origin and continuing impact.

Since the 1930s, a molecular vision has been transforming biology. Michel Morange provides an incisive and overarching history of this transformation, from the early attempts to explain organisms by the structure of their chemical components, to the birth and consolidation of genetics, to the latest technologies and discoveries enabled by the new science of life. Morange revisits A History of Molecular Biology and offers new insights from the past twenty years into his analysis.

The Black Box of Biology shows that what led to the incredible transformation of biology was not a simple accumulation of new results, but the molecularization of a large part of biology. In fact, Morange argues, the greatest biological achievements of the past few decades should still be understood within the molecular paradigm. What has happened is not the displacement of molecular biology by other techniques and avenues of research, but rather the fusion of molecular principles and concepts with those of other disciplines, including genetics, physics, structural chemistry, and computational biology. This has produced decisive changes, including the discoveries of regulatory RNAs, the development of massive scientific programs such as human genome sequencing, and the emergence of synthetic biology, systems biology, and epigenetics.

Original, persuasive, and breathtaking in its scope, The Black Box of Biology sets a new standard for the history of the ongoing molecular revolution.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674281363
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 06/09/2020
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 287,287
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Michel Morange is Professor Emeritus at the Institute of the History and Philosophy of Science and Techniques at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and was Director of the Centre Cavaillès for the History and Philosophy of Sciences at the École Normale Supérieure. A former President of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, Morange has received the Paul Doistau–Emile Blutet Prize of the French Academy of Sciences for his contributions.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 The Birth of Molecular Biology

1 The Roots of the New Science 13

2 The One Gene-One Enzyme Hypothesis 23

3 The Chemical Nature of the Gene 32

4 The Phage Group 41

5 The Birth of Bacterial Genetics 52

6 The Crystallization of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus 63

7 Enter the Physicists 67

8 The Influence of the Rockefeller Foundation 79

9 Physical Techniques in Molecular Biology 88

10 The Role of Physics 99

Part 2 The Development of Molecular Biology

11 The Discovery of the Double Helix 105

12 Deciphering the Genetic Code 120

13 The Discovery of Messenger RNA 138

14 The French School 148

Part 3 The Expansion of Molecular Biology

15 Normal Science 165

16 Genetic Engineering 179

17 Split Genes and Splicing 200

18 The Discovery of Oncogenes 211

19 From DNA Polymerase to the Amplification of DNA 222

Part 4 Beyond Molecular Biology?

20 The Molecularization of Biology and Medicine 235

21 Protein Structure 251

22 The Rise of Developmental Biology 263

23 Molecular Biology and Evolution 278

24 Gene Therapy 297

25 The Central Place of RNA 311

26 Epigenetics 325

27 Sequencing the Human Genome 340

28 Systems Biology and Synthetic Biology 355

29 Images, Representations, and Metaphors in Molecular Biology 369

General Conclusion 385

Appendix: Definition of Terms 389

Notes 393

Index 503

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