New PDF release: A Cultural History of Heredity

By Hans-Jorg Rheinberger, Peter McLaughlin, Staffan Muller-Wille

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36/37. , Pensée LI, pp. 84/85. Speculation and Experiment in Enlightenment Life Sciences restless touching and retouching, trial and error, a “tatonnement” like that of a blind man’s stick. ” 10 It’s productive, useful, like making honey, but it’s also synthetic, and physical, or empirical. Any position, whether material or philosophical, is always either in flux or in a state of dynamic equilibrium, and potentially unstable. Diderot’s Pensées sur l’interpretation de la nature (1754) is a defense of “conjecture” as a productive method; the interpreter of nature starts where the senses leave off.

The Paris physician Charles Augustin Vandermonde incorporated Buffon’s theory of organic molecules into a system for improving the human species through application of principles of nutrition, education, hygiene – and breeding. Vandermonde played on contemporary concerns about declining population and degeneration by prescribing healthy practices for everything from the choice of mate to engendering vigorous offspring to the care of pregnant women and the feeding and education of children. Since, following Buffon, both male and female contribute equally to the offspring, they must be well matched to complement each other.

Still non extant for the botanist community, the plant had to be at least baptised. It was named, the year after Duchesne’s book, Fragaria monophylla, the latter term being not used by Duchesne. 3 In Philosophia botanica, Linnaeus had prescribed strict rules that enabled only “orthodox Botanists” to give the “right name” to a plant. 4 This secured him and a few other privileged botanists against amateurs, while himself and other emergent professionals shared, among other, the power of naming plants.

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A Cultural History of Heredity by Hans-Jorg Rheinberger, Peter McLaughlin, Staffan Muller-Wille


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