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

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

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Ix, edited by Jean Varloot. Paris: Hermann. Diderot, Denis and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert. 1751–1765. Encyclopédie; ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des metiers. 17 vols. Paris: Briasson. Formey, Jean-Henri-Samuel. 1789. Souvenirs d’un citoyen, 2 vols. Berlin: Lagarde. Haller, Albrecht von. 1751. Réflexions sur le systême de la génération de M. de Buffon. Geneve: Chez Barrillot. Hoffheimer, Michael H. 1982. ” Journal of the History of Biology 15(1):119–144. Lelarge de Lignac, Joseph Adrien.

The program rests on a mechanics of heredity inspired by Buffon’s organic molecules, whereby specific traits materialize in oscillating spiral-shaped particles that wind together selectively to make up the germ of the offspring. These operations at the submicroscopic level, well beyond the reach of direct observation, locate macroscopic properties firmly in the stuff of organic matter with its resilience, activity, vibrations and self-propulsion. Vandermonde adapted Buffon’s version of active matter to his own more medical vision of prescriptions for human betterment where heredity is key.

He embedded the theory in reflections on method, arguing for a combination of exploration and synthesis, experiment and interpretation. The philosopher seeks new knowledge in the same way that molecules seek their places, by a kind of 6 7 8 9 30 Buffon (1954), p. 239. ” Maupertuis (1980), pp. 107/108. Diderot ([1754] 1981), Pensée XII, pp. 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.

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