The long and winding road

An author traverses intellectual intrigue and scientific rivalry to trace the conceptual evolution of the gene

James Schwartz
Jul 30, 2008
Simultaneously abstract and personal, the early study of linkurl:heredity;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/50709/ touched on age-old philosophical questions about free will and linkurl:determinism,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/14703/ the relationship between parent and child, and the extent to which human beings can be reduced to the sum of their parts. Fueled by their concern with these elemental themes, the geneticists of the 19th and early 20th centuries were a particularly passionate group, pathologically competitive in some instances and utterly selfless in others. They were prone to intense loyalties as well as overwhelming hatreds, singularly idealistic and ruthlessly pragmatic.
For these reasons I chose to take a novelistic approach to the history of genetics, which was possible because many of the players who made the key discoveries were skilled, prolific linkurl:letter writers.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/16993/ From these letters and other primary source material, it was possible to trace the idea of the gene as it left one consciousness and entered another. Sometimes ideas...

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