In this masterful account, translated from the original French, a historian of science surveys the molecular biology revolution, its origin and continuing impact.
Since the 1930s, a molecular vision has been transforming biology. Michel Morange provides an incisive and overarching history of this transformation, from the early attempts to explain organisms by the structure of their chemical components, to the birth and consolidation of genetics, to the latest technologies and discoveries enabled by the new science of life. Morange revisits A History of Molecular Biology and offers new insights from the past twenty years into his analysis.
The Black Box of Biology shows that what led to the incredible transformation of biology was not a simple accumulation of new results, but the molecularization of a large part of biology. In fact, Morange argues, the greatest biological achievements of the past few decades should still be understood within the molecular paradigm. What has happened is not the displacement of molecular biology by other techniques and avenues of research, but rather the fusion of molecular principles and concepts with those of other disciplines, including genetics, physics, structural chemistry, and computational biology. This has produced decisive changes, including the discoveries of regulatory RNAs, the development of massive scientific programs such as human genome sequencing, and the emergence of synthetic biology, systems biology, and epigenetics.
Original, persuasive, and breathtaking in its scope, The Black Box of Biology sets a new standard for the history of the ongoing molecular revolution.
I. The Birth of Molecular Biology
1. The Roots of the New Science
2. The One Gene–One Enzyme Hypothesis
3. The Chemical Nature of the Gene
4. The Phage Group
5. The Birth of Bacterial Genetics
6. The Crystallization of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus
7. Enter the Physicists
8. The Influence of the Rockefeller Foundation
9. Physical Techniques in Molecular Biology
10. The Role of Physics
II. The Development of Molecular Biology
11. The Discovery of the Double Helix
12. Deciphering the Genetic Code
13. The Discovery of Messenger RNA
14. The French School
III. The Expansion of Molecular Biology
15. Normal Science
16. Genetic Engineering
17. Split Genes and Splicing
18. The Discovery of Oncogenes
19. From DNA Polymerase to the Amplification of DNA
IV. Beyond Molecular Biology?
20. The Molecularization of Biology and Medicine
21. Protein Structure
22. The Rise of Developmental Biology
23. Molecular Biology and Evolution
24. Gene Therapy
25. The Central Place of RNA
27. Sequencing the Human Genome
28. Systems Biology and Synthetic Biology
29. Images, Representations, and Metaphors in Molecular Biology
Appendix: Definition of Terms
Michel Morange is Professor Emeritus at the Institute of the History and Philosophy of Science and Techniques at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and was Director of the Centre Cavaillès for the History and Philosophy of Sciences at the École Normale Supérieure. A former President of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, Morange has received the Paul Doistau–Émile Blutet Prize of the French Academy of Sciences for his contributions.
"Michel Morange is our finest guide to the dramatic rise of molecular biology and its persistence in our lives through genetic engineering. Brilliant, clear, and nuanced, The Black Box of Biology will become a classic in the field."
– Oren Harman, author of The Price of Altruism and Evolutions
"Morange's re-elaboration of his 1998 masterpiece, A History of Molecular Biology, is a gift. Compelling and masterful in its command of contemporary biology, history, and philosophy, The Black Box of Biology is a key reference for grasping the scope and roots of human interventions in the biological world."
– Sabina Leonelli, University of Exeter
"An original and expansive analysis of the history of molecular biology, from its origins to the rise of genomics and epigenetics. Unparalleled in its scope and insight, The Black Box of Biology should be required reading for historians and biologists seeking to understand the molecular transformation of modern biology."
– Michael Dietrich, University of Pittsburgh
"Written by a historian of science trained in François Jacob's laboratory, The Black Box of Biology weaves together the social, political, and scientific dimensions of the 'molecular revolution' into a compelling narrative and a fascinating read."
– Pierre-Olivier Méthot, Laval University