Article ID: CBB023451755

Paolo Della Valle ed Edmund B. Wilson sulla natura dei cromosomi: Concezioni a confronto (2018)


In the early years of the twentieth century, the Italian cytologist Paolo Della Valle developed a theory of instable chromosomes (teoria dei cromosomi labili) and criticized the so-called Sutton-Boveri hypothesis, which attempted to integrate the chromosome’s physiology with the new principles of genetics. On the basis of bibliographical review and personal observations, he claimed that the chromosomes were not stable structures of the cell, but mere transitory agglomerations of material, resulting from periodical rearrangements of the chromatin, close to the cell division. The international scientific community reacted. Among the various critics, the American cytologist Edmund B. Wilson was particularly engaged. Apparently, central element of the controversy was that the same data could be interpreted differently by different scholars; and the point is that none of them had the decisive test to support his own point of view. When checked by optical microscopy, the chromosomes seemed to dissolve during interphase. Della Valle therefore maintained it was very important that biologists stick to the facts. Wilson, in turn, invoked on his behalf a certain “common sense,” assuming that one could establish at least a “high degree” of constancy in number and continuity. The controversy waned in part along with the arrival of Thomas H. Morgan’s chromosome theory of heredity, but only the advent of molecular biology succeeded in putting an end to the debate.

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Authors & Contributors
Volpone, Alessandro
Rushton, Alan R.
Kurt Plischke
Williams, R. B.
Thurtle, Phillip
Satzinger, Helga
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine
Journal of the History of Biology
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Sudhoffs Archiv: Zeitschrift fuer Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Social Studies of Science
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
University of Washington Press
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
University of Chicago
Wilson, Edmund Beecher
Bateson, William
Morgan, Thomas Hunt
Boveri, Theodor
Allen, Garland Edward (1936-)
Montgomery, Thomas Harrison, Jr.
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
21st century
20th century, late
United States

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