Heredity in the 19th Century I: Human/Medical Contexts|
Heredity in the 19th Century II: Species, Lineages & Hybrids
These sessions will discuss different approaches to the problem of hereditary transmission of physical and moral characters during the 19th century in Europe. Tackling conceptions and uses of heredity developed by members or groups of different traditions (medicine, psychiatry, breeders, hybridologists), we aim at showing the fluid state of the concept of heredity during the period, and at trying to expose any common underlying structure, if any.
Organized by: Carlos Beltran & John Waller
Chair: Joseph Cain, University of London
- Carlos Beltran, UNAM-Mexico
"Buzareingues et Lucas on Heredity"
- I will give comparative accounts of the views on hereditary transmission on two French eccentric authors. Girou de Buzareingues and Proper Lucas. The firts is an aimal breeder and the second an alienist. I will show how these views tried to tackle with sveral conflicting constraints that were being posed on the concpt of Heredity at the period and show how the logis of its solution was more onfluential than is recognized.
- John Waller, Wellcome Centre H/M
"Dealing with Hereditary ëTaint' in the Nineteenth Century: a Not-so-distant Mirror?"
- The twenty-first century is witnessing intensifying concerns about the uses to which knowledge of the human genome is being put. Two areas around which these fears have tended to coalesce are (a) the exploitation of information about genetic disorders by the insurance market, and (b) the risks to the individual of their hitherto hidden genetic codes becoming the basis for social and sexual stigmatisation. How societies will deal with such challenges is far from clear. So it is with an eye to the present that this paper explores a neglected aspect of the history of nineteenth-century science and medicine. This juxtaposition of the past and present may sound incongruous, until it is recognised that very similar discourses to those that are now gathering momentum were well-rehearsed by our predecessors in an age equally, if not more, concerned with inheritance and the danger of incurring the stigma of hereditary disease.
As scores of medical advice manuals of the first decades of the nineteenth century make clear, the fear of acquiring a heredity "taint' was very real and extremely widespread in both Britain and America. During a century in which a wide range of acute and chronic illnesses now known to be caused by germs were unequivocally considered to be hereditary in origin, it is hardly surprising that ëgenetic' information was a subject of considerable anxiety and foreboding. This paper focuses on how various parties dealt with putative knowledge of hereditary illness. From the private individuals who scrutinised their makeup for evidence of hereditary abnormalities entailed upon them by their ancestry. To concerned parents fearful that the marriageability of all of their progeny could be impaired by the supposed hereditary maladies of just one. To the managers of insurance firms led to demand information on the ailments from which their customers' close family members died, with a view to raising the premiums of those
A wide range of responses will also be considered. From the assiduous concealment of evidence relating to hereditary malady. To earnest endeavours to convince possible suitors that a malady is acquired rather than hereditary. And, to the attempts mounted by many doctors to repudiate a concept that they felt was causing a quite unacceptable amount of private anguish. I will draw out the analogies between these debates and those in which we are now all once again immersed. At the same time, however, I will avoid becoming too blinded by parallels to overlook the instructive dissimilarities that exist between nineteenth and early twenty-first century discourses. I will conclude by exploring some of the contextual contrasts between then and now, particularly the changing power relationship vis-ý-vis the individual and the market and the fact that modern discourses related to biotechnology are also enmeshed in broader concerns about genetic engineering as well as the optimistic hopes invested in the potential of
- Laure Cartron, Equipe REHSEIS, CNRS, Paris
"Statistics and Heredity in French Medicine"
- I intend to show how the development of the use of medical statistics in France during the first half of the 19th century was instrumental in the development of a particular notion of heredity among French Physicians of the period. I want to show how the creation of the pathological entity "The hereditary predisposition" was forged by the medical community in the period using both medical traditional resources and their own clinical and statistical researches. I will focus my attention on the work of the alienists, that is those physicians in charge of the mental asylums, and how they deployed the notion of the hereditary and backed it with statitical analysis in order to aim at objectivity.
- Pablo Lorenzano, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes/CONICET
"An Analysis of G”rtner's Book Versuche und Beobachtungen ¸ber die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich and their Influence in the Work of Gregor Mendel"
- Carl Joseph von G”rtner (1772-1850) is considered one of the most important biologists of the nineteenth century, thanks to the three following contributions: 1) his work contributed crucially to decide the largely sustained dispute around the sexuality of the plants; 2) his description of the flower was more complete and detailed than the description of any other part of the plant at this time; 3) through his countless experiments with hybrids, he sat down the bases for constructive later investigations. In connection with this last point is that he is usually associated with Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), pointing out that he ñtogether with Joseph Gottlieb K–lreuter (1733-1806)ñ was Mendel's more important precursor. In fact Mendel considers ñ in the work which supposedly gave rise to genetics (Mendel, 1865) ñ that G”rtner and K–lreuter were "the two authorities in the specialty [hybridization]", being G”rtner the most referred author and his work Versuche und Beobachtungen ¸ber die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich (1849) the only work from the authors mentioned by him (who, besides K–lreuter and G”rtner, were Herbert, Lecoq and Wichura) cited by title, even when in an abbreviated way: "die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich". It is known that Mendel read (and re-read) carefully that book, being conserved its copy, broadly underlined and marked, in the library of the Department of Genetic Gregor Mendel of Brno. The objective of this communication is to present an analysis of G”rtner (1849) and its influence in the work of Mendel, paying special attention to those parts marked by Mendel in his exemplar and/or mentioned in Mendel (1865).
- Steven Orzack, The Fresh Pond Research Institute
"Carl D¸sing and the Myths and Mysteries of Sex Ratio"
- Carl Gerhard D¸sing was a pioneering evolutionary biologist. In 1883 he published what appears to be the first mathematical model in evolutionary biology, a model of the evolution of the sex ratio, and in 1885 he published an experimental analysis of this phenomenon. Both anticipated later analyses by almost 50 and 100 years, respectively. Yet, D¸sing received no credit and the life and work of D¸sing are completely unknown to evolutionary biologists and to historians of evolutionary biology. At present, we know nothing about the genesis and development of his ideas. I will discuss D¸sing's life and work. In particular, I will focus on 1) the reasons why his contributions became lost, and 2) how his work relates to the modern synthesis. The historical importance of D¸sing's work is comparable to that of Gregor Mendel in genetics.
- Gar Allen, Washington University
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