Classic Papers in Geneticsby James A. Peters

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  • Classic Papers in Genetics by James A. PetersReview by: Conway ZirkleIsis, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Jun., 1962), pp. 240-241Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/228041 .Accessed: 09/05/2014 20:54

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  • BOOK REVIEWS BOOK REVIEWS

    country and to the world at large." Reynolds' most persuasive arguments, Mitterling shows, were patriotic pre- sentments in which exploration was conceived as a national duty requiring the authority and help of the federal government.

    In 1838 six ill-equipped and poorly constructed ships of the United States Exploring Expedition put to sea under the command of Lieutenant of the Navy Charles Wilkes. In 1840 the ex- pedition sailed for 1500 miles along what Wilkes thought was the ice shelf barrier to a land of continental pro- portions. The first sighting of land was reported on 19 January 1840. This area now known as "Wilkes land " is located south of eastern Australia.

    On his return Wilkes sent the British explorer Captain James Ross a descrip- tion of his cruise and a chart showing his discoveries. A year after Wilkes' claim, Ross substantiated the existence of a large southern continent but said that he had sailed right over an un- broken sea in the position of Wilkes' "pseudo-antarctic continent." In the meantime news reached the United States that the French under Dumont d'Urville had made their first landfall on the Antarctic continent on 19 Janu- ary 1840. It was later shown to have been one day later. A combination of unfortunate circumstances and accusa- tions from some of Wilkes' men led to his ridicule abroad and to a court- martial at home, although the charges against him were eventually dropped.

    The most impressive part of Mitter- ling's excellent and well-documented analysis and evaluation deals with the inner administrative history of the Wilkes expedition under Andrew Jack- son, and the factors which contributed to the federal government's decision to use its funds for overseas exploration - a decision which set a precedent for the use of federal funds for exploration ventures throughout the world. Mitter- ling shows that the objectives of the Wilkes expedition included commercial and scientific aims but that these were subordinate to exploration; that "the propagandists who pressed for explora- tion financed by the federal government

    country and to the world at large." Reynolds' most persuasive arguments, Mitterling shows, were patriotic pre- sentments in which exploration was conceived as a national duty requiring the authority and help of the federal government.

    In 1838 six ill-equipped and poorly constructed ships of the United States Exploring Expedition put to sea under the command of Lieutenant of the Navy Charles Wilkes. In 1840 the ex- pedition sailed for 1500 miles along what Wilkes thought was the ice shelf barrier to a land of continental pro- portions. The first sighting of land was reported on 19 January 1840. This area now known as "Wilkes land " is located south of eastern Australia.

    On his return Wilkes sent the British explorer Captain James Ross a descrip- tion of his cruise and a chart showing his discoveries. A year after Wilkes' claim, Ross substantiated the existence of a large southern continent but said that he had sailed right over an un- broken sea in the position of Wilkes' "pseudo-antarctic continent." In the meantime news reached the United States that the French under Dumont d'Urville had made their first landfall on the Antarctic continent on 19 Janu- ary 1840. It was later shown to have been one day later. A combination of unfortunate circumstances and accusa- tions from some of Wilkes' men led to his ridicule abroad and to a court- martial at home, although the charges against him were eventually dropped.

    The most impressive part of Mitter- ling's excellent and well-documented analysis and evaluation deals with the inner administrative history of the Wilkes expedition under Andrew Jack- son, and the factors which contributed to the federal government's decision to use its funds for overseas exploration - a decision which set a precedent for the use of federal funds for exploration ventures throughout the world. Mitter- ling shows that the objectives of the Wilkes expedition included commercial and scientific aims but that these were subordinate to exploration; that "the propagandists who pressed for explora- tion financed by the federal government

    were primarily interested in discovering an Antarctic continent."

    By concentrating on the lesser-known history of Antarctic exploration in the early nineteenth century, Mitterling has provided us with new information and a new perspective of the recent international investigations in Antarc- tica - a continent twice the size of our United States.

    ERWIN N. HIEBERT

    University of Wisconsin * * *

    JAMES A. PETERS (Editor). Classic Papers in Genetics. vi + 282 pp., tables, figs. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1959. $3.95.

    In as much as genetics is strictly a twentieth century science, it might seem odd to designate any of the con- tributions made to the subject as classic, yet in the sense that classic means excellent or exemplary, the title of the book is appropriate and fully justified by usage. The twenty-eight papers that it contains are classics in this sense, although one fourth are less than ten years old. In the broader sense, however, "classic papers" is a misnomer. Some twenty-five years ago, Thomas Hunt Morgan stated that the genetic problem had been solved; he meant by this that the machinery of heredity, which he and his contem- poraries had investigated, had been dis- covered. Now geneticists often refer to the work done during this period as classical genetics, to contrast it with the more recent research which is pur- sued on a somewhat different level-- on the level of the chemistry of genes and of gene action. Almost half of the papers included by the editor deal with the newer aspect of genetics.

    The first paper is Mendel's own classic contribution. This is a paper that all students of genetics must read and the editor had to include it, even though it has been reprinted in several textbooks and is readily available (translated) to anyone who wishes to consult it. To select the remaining papers from the many thousands that have appeared since 1900, however, is

    were primarily interested in discovering an Antarctic continent."

    By concentrating on the lesser-known history of Antarctic exploration in the early nineteenth century, Mitterling has provided us with new information and a new perspective of the recent international investigations in Antarc- tica - a continent twice the size of our United States.

    ERWIN N. HIEBERT

    University of Wisconsin * * *

    JAMES A. PETERS (Editor). Classic Papers in Genetics. vi + 282 pp., tables, figs. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1959. $3.95.

    In as much as genetics is strictly a twentieth century science, it might seem odd to designate any of the con- tributions made to the subject as classic, yet in the sense that classic means excellent or exemplary, the title of the book is appropriate and fully justified by usage. The twenty-eight papers that it contains are classics in this sense, although one fourth are less than ten years old. In the broader sense, however, "classic papers" is a misnomer. Some twenty-five years ago, Thomas Hunt Morgan stated that the genetic problem had been solved; he meant by this that the machinery of heredity, which he and his contem- poraries had investigated, had been dis- covered. Now geneticists often refer to the work done during this period as classical genetics, to contrast it with the more recent research which is pur- sued on a somewhat different level-- on the level of the chemistry of genes and of gene action. Almost half of the papers included by the editor deal with the newer aspect of genetics.

    The first paper is Mendel's own classic contribution. This is a paper that all students of genetics must read and the editor had to include it, even though it has been reprinted in several textbooks and is readily available (translated) to anyone who wishes to consult it. To select the remaining papers from the many thousands that have appeared since 1900, however, is

    240 240

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  • BOOK REVIEWS BOOK REVIEWS BOOK REVIEWS

    a formidable task. Perhaps no two geneticists would choose exactly the same papers, yet, in the opinion of the reviewer, about half of the papers