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Whose Turn? Chromosome Research and the Study of the Human Genome

Authors
  • de Chadarevian, Soraya1
  • 1 University of California Los Angeles, 6265 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1473, USA , Los Angeles (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of the History of Biology
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Jul 25, 2017
Volume
51
Issue
4
Pages
631–655
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10739-017-9486-7
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

A common account sees the human genome sequencing project of the 1990s as a “natural outgrowth” of the deciphering of the double helical structure of DNA in the 1950s. The essay aims to complicate this neat narrative by putting the spotlight on the field of human chromosome research that flourished at the same time as molecular biology. It suggests that we need to consider both endeavors – the human cytogeneticists who collected samples and looked down the microscope and the molecular biologists who probed the molecular mechanisms of gene function – to understand the rise of the human genome sequencing project and the current genomic practices. In particular, it proposes that what has often been described as the “molecularization” of cytogenetics could equally well be viewed as the turn of molecular biologists to human and medical genetics – a field long occupied by cytogeneticists. These considerations also have implications for the archives that are constructed for future historians and policy makers.

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