Article ID: CBB001552681

The Concept of the Causal Role of Chromosomes and Genes in Heredity and Development: Opponents from Darwin to Lysenko (2014)


The idea of chromosomes and genes as causal agents in development and heredity originated in late 19th-century cytology, and it was most strongly supported by Theodor Boveri and Edmund B. Wilson. The concept of genes, which was central and most fruitful in classical genetics, appeared, however, unappealing and insufficient to many for explaining complex biological phenomena such as development. Philosophical outlooks, among them “Lamarckian” and holistic predilections, played a significant role in scientists' objection to genes as causal factors. A wide conceptual gap between genetics and developmental biology ensued. The strongest attack on the concept of genes was launched by agronomist and politician Trofim Lysenko in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Brushing aside the “Mendelist-Morganist” methods of classical genetics, Lysenko put forward a holistic concept of heredity that incorporated development and heritable responses to environmental conditions, similar to Darwin's Pangenesis theory, though of course some 60 years later. Recent developments include the role of genes in research on epigenetic marks and in systems approaches based on embryological gene regulatory networks.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Santesmases, María Jesús; (2013)
The Biological Landscape of Polyploidy: Chromosomes under Glass in the 1950s (/isis/citation/CBB001211941/)

Article Harman, Oren; (2003)
Darlington and the “Invention” of the Chromosome (/isis/citation/CBB000600546/)

Article Satzinger, Helga; (2008)
Theodor and Marcella Boveri: Chromosomes and Cytoplasm in Heredity and Development (/isis/citation/CBB001021853/)

Article Volpone, Alessandro; (2018)
Paolo Della Valle ed Edmund B. Wilson sulla natura dei cromosomi: Concezioni a confronto (/isis/citation/CBB023451755/)

Article Gilbert, Scott F.; (1978)
The embryological origins of the gene theory (/isis/citation/CBB000013721/)

Article Roll-Hansen, Nils; (2008)
Wishful Science: The Persistence of T. D. Lysenko's Agrobiology in the Politics of Science (/isis/citation/CBB000850336/)

Article Falk, Raphael; (2003)
How Many Chromosomes? (/isis/citation/CBB000340595/)

Article Hans-Jörg Rheinberger; (2015)
Re-discovering Mendel: The Case of Carl Correns (/isis/citation/CBB876750608/)

Article Eduard I. Kolchinsky; (2017)
Nikolaĭ I. Vavilov in the Realm of Historical and Scientific Discussions (/isis/citation/CBB711789477/)

Book Harman, Oren Solomon; (2004)
The Man Who Invented the Chromosome: A Life of Cyril Darlington (/isis/citation/CBB000470729/)

Article Dröscher, Ariane; (2015)
Gregor Mendel, Franz Unger, Carl Nägeli and the Magic of Numbers (/isis/citation/CBB001553633/)

Article Jean Gayon; Richard M. Burian; Laurent Loison; (2017)
The Contributions – and Collapse – of Lamarckian Heredity in Pasteurian Molecular Biology: 1. Lysogeny, 1900–1960 (/isis/citation/CBB496049162/)

Book Brown, William; Fabian, Andrew C.; (2010)
Darwin (/isis/citation/CBB001023129/)

Book Schwartz, James; (2008)
In Pursuit of the Gene: From Darwin to DNA (/isis/citation/CBB000774889/)

Book Ruse, Michael; Travis, Joseph; (2009)
Evolution: The First Four Billion Years (/isis/citation/CBB001232307/)

Authors & Contributors
Volpone, Alessandro
Kolchinsky, Eduard I.
Wülfingen, Bettina Bock v.
Travis, Joseph
Schwartz, James Z.
Satzinger, Helga
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Journal of the History of Biology
Science and Education
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Harvard University Press
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Cambridge University Press
Darwin, Charles Robert
Wilson, Edmund Beecher
Lysenko, Trofim Denisovich
Mendel, Gregor Johann
Darlington, Cyril Dean
Boveri, Theodor
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
18th century
Soviet Union
Great Britain

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment