Article ID: CBB001213345

Theodosius Dobzhansky and the Genetic Race Concept (2013)


The use of `race' as a proxy for population structure in the genetic mapping of complex traits has provoked controversy about its legitimacy as a category for biomedical research, given its social and political connotations. The controversy has reignited debates among scientists and philosophers of science about whether there is a legitimate biological concept of race. This paper examines the genetic race concept as it developed historically in the work of Theodosius Dobzhansky from the 1930s to 1950s. Dobzhansky's definitions of race changed over this time from races as `arrays of forms' or `clusters' in 1933--1939, to races as genetically distinct geographical populations in 1940--1946, to races as genetically distinct `Mendelian populations' in 1947--1955. Dobzhansky responded to nominalist challenges by appealing to the biological reality of race as a process. This response came into tension with the object ontology of race that was implied by Dobzhansky's increasingly holistic treatment of Mendelian populations, a tension, the paper argues, he failed to appreciate or resolve.

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Authors & Contributors
Konashev, Mikhail B.
Jackson, John P., Jr.
Kolchinskii, E. I.
Manoilenko, K. V.
Delisle, Richard G.
Cassata, Francesco
Journal of the History of Biology
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Perspectives on Science
History of Psychology
Revista Brasileira de Historia
Current Anthropology
Central European University Press
University of Maryland, College Park
Science and race
Population genetics
Dobzhansky, Theodosius
Washburn, Sherwood Larned
Montagu, Ashley
Coon, Carleton Stevens
Rensch, Bernhard Carl Emmanuel
Simpson, George Gaylord
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, late
United States
São Paulo (Brazil)
Soviet Union
University of São Paolo
Rockefeller Foundation

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