In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), signed by over 160 countries and hailed as the key symbol of a common vision for saving Earth's biodiversity, set forth three primary mandates: preserving biodiversity, using biodiversity components sustainably, and enabling economic benefit-sharing. The CBD—which gave signatory countries the ability to claim sovereignty over nonhuman genetic resources native to each nation—defined biodiversity through a politics of nationhood in ways that commodified genetic resources. In Biogenetic Paradoxes of the Nation Sakari Tamminen traces the ways in which the CBD's seemingly compatible yet ultimately paradox-ridden aims became manifest in efforts to create, conserve, and capitalize on distinct animal and plant species. In using Finland as a case study with which to understand the worldwide efforts to convert species into manifestations of national identity, Tamminen shows how the CBD's policies contribute less to biodiversity conservation than to smoothing the way for frictionless operation of biotechnologically assisted circuits of the global bioeconomy. Tamminen demonstrates how an intimate look at the high-level politics and technical processes of defining national genetic resources powerfully illuminates the limits of anthropocentric biopolitical theory.
The creation and processing of visual representations in the life sciences is a critical but often overlooked aspect of scientific pedagogy. The Educated Eye follows the nineteenth-century embrace of the visible in new spectatoria, or demonstration halls, through the twentieth-century cinematic explorations of microscopic realms and simulations of surgery in virtual reality. With essays on Doc Edgerton’s stroboscopic techniques that froze time and Eames’s visualization of scale in Powers of Ten, among others, contributors ask how we are taught to see the unseen.
Attempts to distinguish a science of life at the turn of the nineteenth century faced a number of challenges. A central difficulty was clearly demarcating the living from the nonliving experimentally and conceptually. The more closely the boundaries between organic and inorganic phenomena were examined, the more they expanded and thwarted any clear delineation. Experimenting at the Boundaries of Life traces the debates surrounding the first articulations of a science of life in a variety of texts and practices centered on German contexts. Joan Steigerwald examines the experiments on the processes of organic vitality, such as excitability and generation, undertaken across the fields of natural history, physiology, physics and chemistry. She highlights the sophisticated reflections on the problem of experimenting on living beings by investigators, and relates these epistemic concerns directly to the philosophies of nature of Kant and Schelling. Her book skillfully ties these epistemic reflections to arguments by the Romantic writers Novalis and Goethe for the aesthetic aspects of inquiries into the living world and the figurative languages in which understandings of nature were expressed.
The second half of the twentieth century brought extraordinary transformations in knowledge and practice of the life sciences. In an era of decolonization, mass social welfare policies, and the formation of new international institutions such as UNESCO and the WHO, monumental advances were made in both theoretical and practical applications of the life sciences, including the discovery of life’s molecular processes and substantive improvements in global public health and medicine. Combining perspectives from the history of science and world history, this volume examines the impact of major world-historical processes of the postwar period on the evolution of the life sciences. Contributors consider the long-term evolution of scientific practice, research, and innovation across a range of fields and subfields in the life sciences, and in the context of Cold War anxieties and ambitions. Together, they examine how the formation of international organizations and global research programs allowed for transnational exchange and cooperation, but in a period rife with competition and nationalist interests, which influenced dramatic changes in the field as the postcolonial world order unfolded.
This volume centers on philosophical issues of the life sciences, particularly genetics and psychology, and the relevance of statistical data as the foundation for inductive reasoning in areas such as vaccination testing, population genetics, evolutionary theory, and natural selection. Also discussed is the role of psychology in defining thought processes, experiences, and behaviors and their subsequent relation to scientific discovery, and advancing knowledge of the human condition and human potential.
In the years after the Revolutionary War, the fledgling republic of America was viewed by many Europeans as a degenerate backwater, populated by subspecies weak and feeble. Chief among these naysayers was the French Count and world-renowned naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, who wrote that the flora and fauna of America (humans included) were inferior to European specimens.
Thomas Jefferson—author of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. president, and ardent naturalist—spent years countering the French conception of American degeneracy. His Notes on Virginia systematically and scientifically dismantled Buffon’s case through a series of tables and equally compelling writing on the nature of his home state. But the book did little to counter the arrogance of the French and hardly satisfied Jefferson’s quest to demonstrate that his young nation was every bit the equal of a well-established Europe. Enter the giant moose.
The American moose, which Jefferson claimed was so enormous a European reindeer could walk under it, became the cornerstone of his defense. Convinced that the sight of such a magnificent beast would cause Buffon to revise his claims, Jefferson had the remains of a seven-foot ungulate shipped first class from New Hampshire to Paris. Unfortunately, Buffon died before he could make any revisions to his Histoire Naturelle, but the legend of the moose makes for a fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to prove that American nature deserved prestige.
In Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose, Lee Alan Dugatkin vividly recreates the origin and evolution of the debates about natural history in America and, in so doing, returns the prize moose to its rightful place in American history.