The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology

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Oxford University Press, 1993 - Science - 304 pages
This fascinating study examines the rise of American molecular biology to disciplinary dominance, focusing on the period between 1930 and the elucidation of DNA structure in the mid 1950s. Research undertaken during this period, with its focus on genetic structure and function, endowed scientists with then unprecedented power over life. By viewing the new biology as both a scientific and cultural enterprise, Lily E. Kay shows that the growth of molecular biology was a result of systematic efforts by key scientists and their sponsors to direct the development of biological research toward a shared vision of science and society. She analyzes the motivations and mechanisms empowering this vision by focusing on two key institutions: Caltech and its sponsor, the Rockefeller Foundation. Her study explores a number of vital, sometimes controversial topics, among them the role of private power centers in shaping scientific agenda, and the political dimensions of "pure" research. It also advances a sobering argument: the cognitive and social groundwork for genetic engineering and human genome projects was laid by the American architects of molecular biology during these early decades of the project. This book will be of interest to molecular biologists, historians, sociologists, and the general reader alike.
 

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Contents

Introduction
3
Rockefeller Foundations Agenda in the Human Sciences 19131933
22
Southern California and the Emergence of Life Science at Caltech
58
The Biology Division in the Morgan Era
77
Interlude I Protein Paradigm
104
Physiological Genetics During Morgan Era
121
From Physical Chemistry to BioOrganic Chemistry 19301940
143
Immunochemistry and Serological Genetics 19401945
164
Beadles Return to Caltech
194
Shaping of Postwar Science
217
8 Molecular Empire 19461953
243
Epilogue Paradigm Lost? From Nucleoproteins to DNA
269
Conclusion
280
Key to Archival Sources
283
Index
285
Copyright

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About the author (1993)


Lily E. Kay received a Ph.D. in the history of science from the Johns Hopkins University in 1987, and was a recipient of a Smithsonian Fellowship at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. in 1984. She was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in bibliography at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and has taught at the University of Chicago. Since 1989 she has been an assistant professor of history of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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