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The Growth of Biological Thought


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Table of Contents

1 Introduction: How to write history of biology Subjectivity and bias Why study the history of biology? 2 The place of biology in the sciences and its conceptual structure The nature of science Method in science The position of biology within the sciences How and why is biology different? Special characteristics of living organisms Reduction and biology Emergence The conceptual structure of biology A new philosophy of biology 3 The changing intellectual milieu of biology Antiquity The Christian world picture The Renaissance The discovery of diversity Biology in the Enlightenment The rise of science from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century Divisive developments in the nineteenth century Biology in the twentieth century Major periods in the history of biology Biology and philosophy Biology today PART I DIVERSITY OF LIFE 4 Macrotaxonomy, the science of classifying Aristotle The classification of plants by the ancients and the herbalists Downward classification by logical division Pre-Linnaean zoologists Carl Linnaeus Buffon A new start in animal classification Taxonomic characters Upward classification by empirical grouping Transition period (1758-1859) Hierarchical classifications 5 Grouping according to common ancestry The decline of macrotaxonomic research Numerical phenetics Cladistics The traditional or evolutionary methodology New taxonomic characters Facilitation of information retrieval The study of diversity 6 Microtaxonomy, the science of species Early species concepts The essentialist species concept The nominalistic species concept Darwin's species concept The rise of the biological species concept Applying the biological species concept to multidimensional species taxa The significance of species in biology PART II EVOLUTION 7 Origins without evolution The coming of evolutionism The French Enlightenment 8 Evolution before Darwin Lamarck Cuvier England Lyell and uniformitarianism Germany 9 Charles Darwin Darwin and evolution Alfred Russel Wallace The publication of the Origin 10 Darwin's evidence for evolution and common descent Common descent and the natural system Common descent and geographical distribution Morphology as evidence for evolution and common descent Embryology as evidence for evolution and common descent 11 The causation of evolution: natural selection The major components of the theory of natural selection The origin of the concept of natural selection The impact of the Darwinian revolution The resistance to natural selection Alternate evolutionary theories 12 Diversity and synthesis of evolutionary thought The growing split among the evolutionists Advances in evolutionary genetics Advances in evolutionary systematics The evolutionary synthesis 13 Post-synthesis developments Molecular biology Natural selection Unresolved issues in natural selection Modes of speciation Macroevolution The evolution of man Evolution in modern thought PART III VARIATION AND ITS INHERITANCE 14 Early theories and breeding experiments Theories of inheritance among the ancients Mendel's forerunners 15 Germ cells, vehicles of heredity The Schwann-Schleiden cell theory The meaning of sex and fertilization Chromosomes and their role 16 The nature of inheritance Darwin and variation August Weismann Hugo de Vries Gregor Mendel 17 The flowering of Mendelian genetics The rediscoverers of Mendel The classical period of Mendelian genetics The origin of new variation (mutation) The emergence of modern genetics The Sutton-Boveri chromosome theory Sex determination Morgan and the fly room Meiosis Morgan and the chromosome theory 18 Theories of the gene Competing theories of inheritance The Mendelian explanation of continuous variation 19 The chemical basis of inheritance The discovery of the double helix Genetics in modern thought 20 Epilogue: Toward a science of science Scientists and the scientific milieu The maturation of theories and concepts Impediments to the maturation of theories and concepts The sciences and the external milieu Progress in science Notes References Glossary Index

About the Author

Ernst Mayr was Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the Crafoord Prize for Biology, the National Medal of Science, the Balzan Prize, and the Japan Prize.


Professor Mayr has written a monumental history of biological ideas...[It is] a marvelous course in evolution, taught historically. For a reader who is willing to make the effort, this book provides one of the best and most nearly complete discussions of these ideas to be found anywhere. It is an example of those rare books in popular science which can teach scientists as well as laymen...[This book] is full of insights and historical revelations. Nothing quite like The Growth of Biological Thought has been attempted before. It is a book that could have been written only by a scientist in complete command of his subject. -- Jeremy Bernstein New Yorker This is an extraordinary, epic work in which Mayr once again shows himself a master of detail, interpretation, and synthesis. -- Douglas J. Futuyma Science The Growth of Biological Thought will be a richly rewarding experience...Mayr's vivid manner, his clear analytical distinctions, his candor in meeting controversial issues head on, make his discussions as stimulating as they are valuable. -- Frederic L. Holmes Washington Post Book World Mayr concentrates on scientific problems and concepts, placing them in the intellectual milieu of each historical period...Tightly drawn, highly opinionated presentations are invaluable in science, and Mr. Mayr's [book] is certainly provocative. -- James L. Gould New York Times Book Review This solid essential reading for everyone at all interested in evolution, in biology or its history, or in science in general. -- A. J. Cain Nature Mayr's book is a book of great erudition and insight. No other single volume offers such an extensive account of the history of the subjects in question while providing as penetrating a view of the nature of these subjects. -- Richard W. Burkhardt Times Higher Education Supplement

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