Synthetic: How Life Got Made by Sophia RoosthSynthetic: How Life Got Made by Sophia Roosth

Synthetic: How Life Got Made

bySophia Roosth

Paperback | March 1, 2017

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In the final years of the twentieth century, émigrés from engineering and computer science devoted themselves to biology and resolved that if the aim of biology is to understand life, then making life would yield better theories than experimentation. Armed with the latest biotechnology techniques, these scientists treated biological media as elements for design and manufacture: viruses named for computers, bacterial genomes encoding passages from James Joyce, chimeric yeast buckling under the metabolic strain of genes harvested from wormwood, petunias, and microbes from Icelandic thermal pools.
In Synthetic: How Life Got Made, cultural anthropologist Sophia Roosth reveals how synthetic biologists make new living things in order to understand better how life works. The first book-length ethnographic study of this discipline, Synthetic documents the social, cultural, rhetorical, economic, and imaginative transformations biology has undergone in the post-genomic age. Roosth traces this new science from its origins at MIT to start-ups, laboratories, conferences, and hackers’ garages across the United States—even to contemporary efforts to resurrect extinct species. Her careful research reveals that rather than opening up a limitless new field, these biologists’ own experimental tactics circularly determine the biological features, theories, and limits they fasten upon. Exploring the life sciences emblematic of our time, Synthetic tells the origin story of the astonishing claim that biological making fosters biological knowing.
Sophia Roosth is the Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professor for history of science at Harvard University.  
Title:Synthetic: How Life Got MadeFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:March 1, 2017Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022644046X

ISBN - 13:9780226440460

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Analysis: Synthesis
Interlude 1: Plastic Fantastic

Chapter 1: Life by Design: Evolution and Creation Tales in Synthetic Biology
Interlude 2: From Still Life to More Intense Life

Chapter 2: The Synthetic Kingdom: Transgenic Kinship in the Postgenomic Era
Interlude 3: “To Make an Eye, a Hair, a Leaf”

Chapter 3: The Rebirth of the Author: New Life in Legal and Economic Circuits
Interlude 4: Much More than Human

Chapter 4: Biotechnical Agnosticism: Fragmented Life and Labor among the Machines
Interlude 5: What Comes Before

Chapter 5: Life Makes Itself at Home: The Rise of Biohacking as Political Action
Interlude 6: Life Embryonic and Prophetic

Chapter 6: Latter-Day Lazarus: Biological Salvage and Species Revival
Appendix: A Note on Method

Editorial Reviews

“This is stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing reading, which combines ethnographic richness with sophisticated theoretical reflection. Every chapter of Roosth’s book will challenge you to think about the topic of synthetic biology in new and refreshing ways.”