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By focusing on chromosomes, Heredity under the Microscope offers a new history of postwar human genetics. Today chromosomes are understood as macromolecular assemblies and are analyzed with a variety of molecular techniques. Yet for much of the twentieth century, researchers studied chromosomes by looking down a microscope. Chromosome analysis offered a direct glimpse of the complete genome, opening up seemingly endless possibilities for observation and intervention. Critics, however, countered that visual evidence was not enough and pointed to the need to understand the molecular mechanisms. In telling this history in full for the first time, Soraya de Chadarevian argues that the often-bewildering variety of observations made under the microscope were central to the study of human genetics. By making space for microscope-based practices alongside molecular approaches, and by exploring the close connections between genetics and an array of scientific, medical, ethical, legal and policy concerns in the atomic age, Heredity under the Microscope sheds new light on the cultural history of the human genome.
Chapter 1. Radiation and Mutation
Chapter 2. Chromosomes and the Clinic
Chapter 3. X and Y
Chapter 4. Scaling Up
Chapter 5. Of Chromosomes and DNA
Note on Sources
"Images of the human chromosomes have enchanted scientists, inspired artists, and become symbols of human difference and pathology. In her engaging account, Soraya de Chadarevian deftly explores the visualization of these cellular 'colored bodies' and demonstrates their critical role in modern biology. The 'molecular revolution,' she suggests, was also a chromosomal revolution."
– M. Susan Lindee, University of Pennsylvania
"De Chadarevian shows how much we have missed by looking at the history of biology since World War II as largely a history of how molecular geneticists cracked the genetic code. By focusing the lens on chromosomes, and their uses inside and outside the laboratory, her thorough yet elegant account exposes unexpected continuities, both with the eugenic past of heredity research and its genomic present."
– Staffan Müller-Wille, author of The Gene: From Genetics to Postgenomics