From Molecular Genetics to Genomics: The Mapping Cultures of Twentieth-Century Genetics

From Molecular Genetics to Genomics: The Mapping Cultures of Twentieth-Century Genetics

From Molecular Genetics to Genomics: The Mapping Cultures of Twentieth-Century Genetics

From Molecular Genetics to Genomics: The Mapping Cultures of Twentieth-Century Genetics

Synopsis

With the rise of genomics, the life sciences have entered a new era. Maps of genomes have become the icons for a comprehensive knowledge of the organism on a previously unattained level of complexity, and the organisation of genetic knowledge in maps has been a major driving force in the establishment of the discipline. This book provides a comprehensive history of molecular genetics and genomics.The first section of the book shows how the genetic cartography of classical genetics was linked to the molecular analysis of gene structure through the introduction of new model organisms such as bacteria and through the invention of new experimental tools such as gene transfer. The second section addresses the moral and political economy of human genome sequencing in all its technical, epistemic, social and economic complexity.With detailed analyses of the scientific practices of mapping and its illustration of the diversity of mapping practices this book is a significant contribution to the history of genetics. A companion volume from the same editors - Classical Genetic Research and Its Legacy: The Mapping Cultures of Twentieth Century Genetics - covers the history of mapping procedures as they were developed in classical genetics.

Excerpt

Jean-Paul Gaudillière and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger

This book is about the mapping cultures of twentieth-century genetics. From Molecular Genetics to Genomics is the second volume of a collection of papers resulting from a conference that was held at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin in March 2001. It covers the mapping procedures developed in the era of molecular biology, gene technology, and genomics, that is, roughly, in the second part of the twentieth century. The accompanying first volume-Classical Genetic Research and its Legacy-covers the first part of the twentieth century. We felt that a detailed history of genetic mapping was timely, if not overdue, in view of the recent developments in genomics epitomized by the announcement of a first draft of the structure of the human genome in the summer of 2000, which was eventually made public in February 2001, a month before the workshop from whose deliberations this book took shape.

It is possibly not too far-fetched to postulate that the spaces of our genetic knowledge about living beings have been organized around two major fields of metaphor, metonymy, and model with their concomitant practices. One of these fields gravitates around the theme of mapping, the other around that of information and communication. Whereas the concept of information has been given wide attention by historians and philosophers of science, particularly as far as the history of molecular biology is concerned, mapping has not. This book is about mapping. Both themes have not only transformed biology, they have also created powerful public images and icons associated with contemporary genomics, its potential uses and abuses, that is, the genetic map and the genetic program. Whereas the notion of information has become firmly embedded within the space once defined and confined by quite different conceptions of biological specificity and function, the idea of the map resides and exerts its power pre-dominantly at the level of structure, organization, and correlation. And whereas mapping is clearly associated with the activity of organizing and of performing a certain kind and form of research, with its instruments and practices circulating in specific communities-that is, with a distinctly epistemological and performative meaning-the concept of information carries the burden of the new molecular genetic ontology. It should be an interesting exercise to ask why these two metaphorical realms could obviously coexist in such a productive manner and why they could develop such an enormous impact on the representation and the

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