Article ID: CBB496049162

The Contributions – and Collapse – of Lamarckian Heredity in Pasteurian Molecular Biology: 1. Lysogeny, 1900–1960 (2017)


This article shows how Lamarckism was essential in the birth of the French school of molecular biology. We argue that the concept of inheritance of acquired characters positively shaped debates surrounding bacteriophagy and lysogeny in the Pasteurian tradition during the interwar period. During this period the typical Lamarckian account of heredity treated it as the continuation of protoplasmic physiology in daughter cells. Félix d’Hérelle applied this conception to argue that there was only one species of bacteriophage and Jules Bordet applied it to develop an account of bacteriophagy as a transmissible form of autolysis and to analyze the new phenomenon of lysogeny. In a long-standing controversy with Bordet, Eugène Wollman deployed a more morphological understanding of the inheritance of acquired characters, yielding a particulate, but still Lamarckian, account of lysogeny. We then turn to André Lwoff who, with several colleagues, completed Wollman’s research program from 1949 to 1953. We examine how he gradually set aside the Lamarckian background, finally removing inheritance of acquired characters from the resulting account of bacteriophagy and lysogeny. In the conclusion, we emphasize the complex dual role of Lamarckism as it moved from an assumed explanatory framework to a challenge that the nascent molecular biology had to overcome.

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Authors & Contributors
Gissis, Snait B.
Hall, Brian K.
Jablonka, Eva
Loison, Laurent
Brandt, Christina
Brzezinski Prestes, María Elice de
Journal of the History of Biology
Journal of Experimental Zoology. Part B, Molecular and Developmental Evolution
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
Victorian Studies
Fundo Mackenzie de Pesquisa
Greenwood Press
Harvard University Press
Hill & Wang
MIT Press
Notre Dame University Press
Darwin, Charles Robert
Gulick, John Thomas
Mendel, Gregor Johann
Butler, Samuel
Carpenter, William Benjamin
Caullery, Maurice
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
21st century
20th century, late
Great Britain
Human Genome Project

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