[SydPhil] HPS Research Seminar Series Semester Two 2014

Debbie Castle debbie.castle at sydney.edu.au
Tue Jul 22 11:53:14 AEST 2014

Dear All

The first presentation in the HPS Research Seminar Series for Semester Two will be:

5pm - 7pm

The Trouble with Rogues: genetics, plant breeding and purity in Edwardian Britain
The purity of hereditary factors, or genetic purity, was a central plank in early genetic thought. It was a key assumption on which much else rested. When the first geneticists looked to Gregor Mendel's work, this was the insight they gleaned from his now infamous pea experiments. To a Mendelian (as the self-described followers of Gregor Mendel's work initially knew themselves) a plant's characteristics were determined solely by the hereditary factors it received from its parents. Such factors never blended. If a plant inherited a green factor, the factor was green through and through and devoid of any yellow making factor that might have been present in its distant ancestors. It was this de-historicisation of factors that added value to the Mendelian insight. The stability of factors could be harnessed to create stable varieties which would be economically important. The problem that this paper follows is that of rogues: out of type plants that looked like neither of their parents or close relatives and pointed to impurity of the hereditary factors and ancestral influence. Despite several Mendelians' best efforts to explain or eliminate rogues these deviant plants refused to disappear. However, rather than abandoning the theory, in short order, such anomalous phenomena were hived off as merely a practical concern. This paper tracks the initial promise of stability in plant breeding offered by Mendelian theory, the problem presented to such claims by rogues, the attempts of several Mendelians to deal with such exceptions and the eventual side lining of their theoretical import.

Where:  Science Meeting Room 450, Carslaw Building F07

Best Regards

Debbie Castle
Administration Officer
Unit for History and Philosophy of Science
Room 441, Carslaw Building F07| THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY   NSW  2006
T: + 61 2  9351 4226 E: debbie.castle at sydney.edu.au
Office Open: Monday Tuesday and Wednesday

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