The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology

Paperback | April 30, 1999

byLily E. Kay

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This fascinating study examines the rise of American molecular biology to disciplinary dominance, focusing on the period between 1930 and the elucidation of DNA structure in the mid 1950s. Research undertaken during this period, with its focus on genetic structure and function, endowedscientists with then unprecedented power over life. By viewing the new biology as both a scientific and cultural enterprise, Lily E. Kay shows that the growth of molecular biology was a result of systematic efforts by key scientists and their sponsors to direct the development of biologicalresearch toward a shared vision of science and society. She analyzes the motivations and mechanisms empowering this vision by focusing on two key institutions: Caltech and its sponsor, the Rockefeller Foundation. Her study explores a number of vital, sometimes controversial topics, among them therole of private power centers in shaping scientific agenda, and the political dimensions of "pure" research. It also advances a sobering argument: the cognitive and social groundwork for genetic engineering and human genome projects was laid by the American architects of molecular biology duringthese early decades of the project. This book will be of interest to molecular biologists, historians, sociologists, and the general reader alike.

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From Our Editors

The organizational history of Caltech is the loom on which Kay has woven an intricate fabric of the molecular vision of life.

From the Publisher

This fascinating study examines the rise of American molecular biology to disciplinary dominance, focusing on the period between 1930 and the elucidation of DNA structure in the mid 1950s. Research undertaken during this period, with its focus on genetic structure and function, endowedscientists with then unprecedented power over life...

From the Jacket

The organizational history of Caltech is the loom on which Kay has woven an intricate fabric of the molecular vision of life.

Lily E. Kay received a Ph.D. in the history of science from the Johns Hopkins University in 1987, and was a recipient of a Smithsonian Fellowship at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. in 1984. She was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in bibliography at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and has taug...

other books by Lily E. Kay

Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9.17 × 5.98 × 0.79 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195111435

ISBN - 13:9780195111439

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Table of Contents

1. "Social Control:" the Rockefeller Foundation's Agenda in the Human Sciences, 1913-19332. The Technological Frontier: Southern California and the Emergence of Life Science at Caltech3. Visions and Realities: The Biology Division in the Morgan EraInterlude 1 -- The Protein Paradigm4. From Flies to Molecules: Physiological Genetics in the Morgan Era5. A Convergence of Goals: From Physical Chemistry to Bio-Organic Chemistry6. The Spoils of War: Immunochemistry and Serological Genetics, 1940-19457. Microorganisms and Macromanagement: Beadle's Return to Caltech8. The Molecular Empire

From Our Editors

The organizational history of Caltech is the loom on which Kay has woven an intricate fabric of the molecular vision of life.

Editorial Reviews

"I am fascinated by, and supportive of Kay's goals . . . . Kay weaves her rich narrative from both primary and secondary sources . . . . this book will attract readers from a number of different fields as well as interested generalists."--Journal of the History of Biology