Heredity: A Very Short Introduction

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Oxford University Press, 2017 - Electronic books - 151 pages
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The concept of heredity is fundamental to how we see ourselves and others. It goes far beyond the obvious continuity of physical traits across generations. We routinely ascribe similarities in personality, intellect, outlook, and aptitude between family members to what's passed down in sperm
and eggs. The simple idea that children take after their ancestors has long been central to science and medicine and to the breeding of plants and animals. It has also been used for ideological purposes to impute innate differences in character and rationality between males and females and among
different ethnicities and social classes. Slavery, colonialism, and genocide, the unequal treatment of women, and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few have been consistently rationalized in the language of heredity and 'natural' hierarchy.

In this Very Short Introduction John Waller traces the diverse ideas about biological inheritance expressed by Europeans and their colonial descendants during two millennia of human history. He charts the changing ways in which scholars and laypersons have believed heredity to work, the development
of spurious and self-serving beliefs about heredity by dominant groups, the recent revolution in our ability to understand the mechanics of heredity, and the difficult dilemmas our species is likely to face as we gain increasing mastery over the contents of our own genomes.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and
enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

 

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Contents

Souls seeds and chauvinism 2500 BCAD 400
1
Sex seed and sin in the medieval world
15
Heredity in the early modern world 14501700
22
Heredity in the Enlightenment
37
Heredity in the 19th century
53
Molecules and men
72
New horizons
101
Progress and possibility
132
Further reading
139
Index
145
Very Short Introduction
152
A Very Short Introduction
153
A Very Short Introduction
154
A Very Short Introduction
155
A Very Short Introduction
156
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About the author (2017)


John Waller has taught at University College London and the University of Melbourne, and is currently an associate professor of the history of science and medicine at Michigan State University. He is the author of several books on scientific discovery and social history, including Fabulous Science
(OUP, 2002), The Discovery of the Germ (Columbia, 2003), Leaps in the Dark (OUP, 2004), and A Time to Dance, A Time To Die (Icon, 2009). He is currently completing a study of the history of dehumanization.

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