History and Philosophy Of Science | Genetics, Eugenics, and Biotechnology: The Science of Heredity in Social and Historical Perspective
E104 | 0099 | S. Gliboff
This course is a history of the science of genetics, of scientists'
visions for human mental, moral,and medical improvement, and of the
interplay between the visions and the possiblities. It will show
developments in the laboratory not only helped to inspire visions of
human improvement, but also drew inspiration from them.
The story begins with the Polymathic Sir Francis Galton and his
original idea of "eugenics" in the late nineteenth-century, which
went hand-in-hand with his contributions to the theory of heredity
and the methods of biostatistics. It proceeds through
the "rediscovery" of Mendelism in 1900 and the new possibilities it
seemed to open for gaining control over human heredity. It then
traces the growth of the American eugenics movement in the 1910s and
1920s, and the successful promotion of eugenic sterilization and
immigration-restriction laws, while also considering scientific and
social critiques of eugenics and attempts at reform. Finally, the
couse will turn its attention to the post-World-War-II
dissillusionment with eugenics and the turn towrds basic research in
the biochemical and molecular genetics, which by the 1970s was
spawning new visions and new applications for genetic counseling,
screening and engineering.