Article ID: CBB114945953

Normal development and experimental embryology: Edmund Beecher Wilson and Amphioxus (2016)


This paper concerns the concept of normal development, and how it is enacted in experimental procedures. To that end, I use an historical case study to assess the three ways in which normal development is and has been produced, used, and interpreted in the practice of experimental biology. I argue that each of these approaches involves different processes of abstraction, which manage biological variation differently. I then document the way in which Edmund Beecher Wilson, a key contributor to late-nineteenth century experimental embryology, approached the study of normal development and show that his work does not fit any of the three established categories in the taxonomy. On the basis of this new case study, I present a new interpretation of normal development as a methodological norm which operates as a technical condition in various experimental systems. I close by suggesting the questions, and ways of investigating developmental biology, that are opened up by this perspective.

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Authors & Contributors
Minelli, Alessandro
Hopwood, Nick
Fasolo, Aldo
Lovisolo, Davide
Vienne, Florence
Thieffry, Denis
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Mefisto: Rivista di medicina, filosofia, storia
Spontaneous Generations
Perspectives on Science
Journal of the History of Biology
Cambridge University Press
University of Pittsburgh
Developmental biology
Variation (biology)
Evolutionary developmental biology
Wilson, Edmund Beecher
Schwann, Theodor
Prévost, Jean Louis
Levi-Montalcini, Rita
Kühn, Alfred
Haeckel, Ernst
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, early
20th century, late
18th century
Great Britain
Human Genome Project

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