History of Biology

Keeping up With the Periodic Table

The periodic table, that ingeniously arranged display of atomic weights, numbers and elements that’s probably posted on a door way in the back of your lab, isn’t a static document. It’s changed a fair amount in its lifetime, largely as weights are refined and new elements added. However in 2011, the International Union of Pure…

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A (Balanced) History Of Molecular Biology

If you’ve ever wondered how molecular biology came to prominence in biomedical research, why so many famous molecular biologists of the past century were trained as physicists, or when bacteriophages were first used as cloning vectors, you may be looking for a good read on the history of molecular biology. Unlike in evolutionary biology, where…

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Birth of the Cell Doctrine

As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended to be familiar with the history of one’s scientific field, and not merely the contemporary trends of thought. That’s generally why I liked The Birth of the Cell so much when I read it. Dissatisfied by the standard accounts of the origin of the cell doctrine,…

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Relating to Historical Contingency in Biology

Two blog posts recently collided for me. First, in a blog discussion on Macroevolution vs. Microevolution, Allen MacNeill clarified some issues for me (thanks to TUIBG for bringing it back up): Add the newly emerging fields of evo-devo and epigenesis to the foregoing, and it is increasingly clear that macroevolution (i.e. cladogenesis) follows different rules…

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History of Cell Biology

The cell theory, or cell doctrine, states that all organisms are composed of similar units of organization, called cells. The concept was formally articulated in 1839 by Schleiden & Schwann and has remained as the foundation of modern biology. The idea predates other great paradigms of biology including Darwin’s theory of evolution (1859), Mendel’s laws…

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