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Academic & Professional Books  Organismal to Molecular Biology  General Biology

Towards a Theory of Development

By: Alessandro Minelli(Editor), Thomas Pradeu(Editor)
283 pages, b/w illustrations, tables
Towards a Theory of Development
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  • Towards a Theory of Development ISBN: 9780199671434 Paperback May 2014 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
  • Towards a Theory of Development ISBN: 9780199671427 Hardback May 2014 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Selected version: £63.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Is it possible to explain and predict the development of living things? What is development? Articulate answers to these seemingly innocuous questions are far from straightforward. To date, no systematic, targeted effort has been made to construct a unifying theory of development. This novel work offers a unique exploration of the foundations of ontogeny by asking how the development of living things should be understood. It explores the key concepts of developmental biology, asks whether general principles of development can be discovered, and examines the role of models and theories.

The two editors (one a biologist with long interest in the theoretical aspects of his discipline, the other a philosopher of science who has mainly worked on biological systems) have assembled a team of leading contributors who are representative of the scientific and philosophical community within which a diversity of thoughts are growing, and out of which a theory of development may eventually emerge. They analyse a wealth of approaches to concepts, models and theories of development, such as gene regulatory networks, accounts based on systems biology and on physics of soft matter, the different articulations of evolution and development, symbiont-induced development, as well as the widely discussed concepts of positional information and morphogenetic field, the idea of a 'programme' of development and its critiques, and the long-standing opposition between preformationist and epigenetic conceptions of development.

Towards a Theory of Development is primarily aimed at students and researchers in the fields of 'evo-devo', developmental biology, theoretical biology, systems biology, biophysics, and the philosophy of science.


1. Theories of Development in Biology - Problems and Perspectives
2. Regenerating Theories in Developmental Biology
3. The Erotetic Organization of Developmental Biology
4. On the Concept of Mechanism in Development
5. The Epistemological Resilience of the Concept of Morphogenetic Field
6. Physico-genetics of Morphogenesis: The Hybrid Nature of Developmental Mechanisms
7. The Landscape Metaphor in Development
8. Formalizing Theories of Development: A Fugue on the Orderliness of Change
9. General Theories of Evolution and Inheritance, but not Development?
10. Cell Differentiation Is a Stochastic Process Subjected to Natural Selection
11. From Genes to Gene Regulatory Networks: The Progressive Historical Construction of a Genetic Theory of Development and Evolution
12. Reproduction and Scaffolded Developmental Processes: An Integrated Evolutionary Perspective
13. Comparison of Animal and Plant Development: A Right Track to Establish a Theory of Development?
14. Toward a Theory of Development Through a Theory of Developmental Evolution
15. Developmental Disparity
16. Identifying Some Theories in Developmental Biology. The Case of the Cancer Stem Cell Theory
17. Animal Development in a Microbial World

Customer Reviews


Alessandro Minelli was Professor of Zoology at the University of Padova, Italy, until his retirement in 2011. Following long years of research in biological systematics and phylogenetics, he later moved the focus of his activity towards evolutionary developmental biology. Founding member and former vice-president of the European Society of Evolutionary Biology, Minelli is member of the editorial board of Evolution & Development, Theory in Biosciences and Frontiers in Zoology.

Thomas Pradeu is Associate Professor in Philosophy of Science at Paris-Sorbonne University. Trained in both philosophy and biology, he is particularly interested in conceptual and theoretical issues of immunology and developmental biology. His research has been published in scientific and philosophical journals, including Biological Theory, Biology and Philosophy, The Lancet, Nature Reviews Immunology, and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA.

Wallace Arthur
School of Natural Sciences, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Jonathan Bard
Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics, University of Oxford, UK

Roberto Carrer
Department of Mathematics, V. Volterra Institute, San Donà di Piave, Italy

Giuseppe Fusco
Department of Biology, University of Padova, Italy

Scott F. Gilbert
Department of Biology, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, USA and Biotechnology Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

James Griesemer
Department of Philosophy, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA, USA

Isaac Hernández
Department of Philosophy, University of Toulouse 2, France

Johannes Jaeger
CRG - Centre de Regulació Genòmica, Barcelona, Spain

Jean-Jacques Kupiec
Centre Cavaillès, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France

Lucie Laplane
Department of Philosophy, University of Paris X, Nanterre, Paris, France

Alan C. Love
Department of Philosophy, Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Margaret J. McFall-Ngai
Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA

Alessandro Minelli
Department of Biology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy

Armin P. Moczek
Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA and National Center for Evolutionary Synthesis (NESCent), Durham, North Carolina, USA

Michel Morange
Centre Cavaillès, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France

Stuart A. Newman
Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, USA

Spencer V. Nyholm
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA

Thomas Pradeu
Institut d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France

Emanuele Serrelli
Riccardo Massa Department of Human Sciences, University of Milano Bicocca, Milano, Italy

James Sharpe CRG - Centre de Regulació Genòmica, Barcelona, Spain

Davide Vecchi
Department of Philosophy, Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Santiago, Chile and Institute of Philosophy and Sciences of Complexity (IFICC), Santiago, Chile

Michel Vervoort
Institut Jacques Monod, CNRS, Univ Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France and Institut Universitaire de France, Paris, France

By: Alessandro Minelli(Editor), Thomas Pradeu(Editor)
283 pages, b/w illustrations, tables
Media reviews

"[a] splendid book [...] The complementary perspectives of the editors helped to bring together an exceptional team of contributors that includes both biologists and philosophers. [...] this book should be required reading for philosophers and biologists interested in development or evolutionary developmental biology"
– Kostas Kampourakis, Metascience

"This is a very welcome volume that raises, and addresses, a number of important questions about how we understand development [...] and is worth reading carefully. It raises questions that deserve further consideration, and should stimulate further discussion that will enrich developmental biology, philosophy of science, and will benefit from conversation with history of science as well"
– Jane Maienschein, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

"This book will be essential reading for readers wanting a rich introduction to current broad issues in developmental biology and evo-devo, for philosophers of science in general, and for biologists at large. Exceptional for an edited volume, each chapter in Towards a Theory of Development is deeply thoughtful, provoking reflection on some of the most important ideas in current biology. I can think of no higher recommendation"
– Mark E. Olson, Evolution & Development

"Towards a Theory of Development gathers essays by biologists and philosophers, which display a diversity of theoretical perspectives. The discussions not only cover the state of art, but broaden our vision of what development includes and provide pointers for future research [...] highly recommended reading for everyone interested in developmental biology."
– Ingo Brigandt, University of Alberta

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