Article ID: CBB498164154

How Mechanisms Explain Interfield Cooperation: Biological–Chemical Study of Plant Growth Hormones in Utrecht and Pasadena, 1930–1938 (2017)


This article examines to what extent a particular case of cross-disciplinary research in the 1930s was structured by mechanistic reasoning. For this purpose, it identifies the interfield theories that allowed biologists and chemists to use each other’s techniques and findings, and that provided the basis for the experiments performed to identify plant growth hormones and to learn more about their role in the mechanism of plant growth. In 1930, chemists and biologists in Utrecht and Pasadena began to cooperatively study plant growth. I will argue that these researchers decided to join forces because they believed to rely on each other’s findings and methods to solve their research problems adequately. In the course of the cooperation, organic chemists arrived at isolating plant growth hormones by using a test method developed in plant physiology. This achievement, in turn, facilitated biologists’ investigation of the mechanism of plant growth. Researchers eventually believed to have the means to study the relation between a substance’s molecular structure and its physiological activity. The way they conceptualized the problem of identifying hormones and unraveling the mechanism of plant growth, as well as their actual research actions are compatible with the new mechanists’ account of mechanism research. The study illustrates that focusing on researchers’ mechanistic reasoning can contribute considerably to explaining the structure of cross-disciplinary research projects.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Jones, Dewi; (2006)
John Lloyd Williams (1854--1945): Profile of a Snowdonian Botanist (/isis/citation/CBB000600283/)

Article Hu, Zonggang; (2006)
Dr. Tchen-Ngo Liou's Sino-French Northwest Scientific Expedition in China (/isis/citation/CBB001020750/)

Book Ayres, P. G.; (2005)
Harry Marshall Ward and the Fungal Thread of Death (/isis/citation/CBB000671262/)

Article Bruhn, Matthias; (2011)
Life Lines: An Art History of Biological Research around 1800 (/isis/citation/CBB001221525/)

Article Brown, Harvey; (2013)
The Theory of the Rise of Sap in Trees: Some Historical and Conceptual Remarks (/isis/citation/CBB001320411/)

Book Ayres, Peter; (2008)
The Aliveness of Plants: The Darwins at the Dawn of Plant Science (/isis/citation/CBB000831473/)

Article Finlay, Mark R.; (2011)
Behind the Barbed Wired of Manzanar: Guayule and the Search for Natural Rubber (/isis/citation/CBB001450584/)

Article Jen McComb; (2018)
Arthur James McComb 1936–2017 (/isis/citation/CBB399725393/)

Article Hartley, Beryl; (2010)
Exploring and Communicating Knowledge of Trees in the Early Royal Society (/isis/citation/CBB001022709/)

Book Höxtermann, Ekkehard; Kaasch, Joachim; Kaasch, Michael; (2001)
Berichte zur Geschichte und Theorie der Ökologie und weitere Beiträge zur 9. Jahrestagung der DGGTB in Neuburg a.d. Donau 2000 (/isis/citation/CBB000101514/)

Article Werner, Petra; Holmes, Frederic L.; (2002)
Justus Liebig and the Plant Physiologists (/isis/citation/CBB000300871/)

Article Leonelli, Sabina; (2007)
Arabidopsis, the Botanical Drosophila: From Mouse Cress to Model Organism (/isis/citation/CBB000771724/)

Article Bert Nederbragt; Babke Aarts; (2017)
De 'Langreuter' melkmachine: reconstructie van een doodlopende ontwikkeling (/isis/citation/CBB409321917/)

Article David P. D. Munns; (2021)
The age of biology: When plant physiology was in the center of American life science (/isis/citation/CBB656427237/)

Article Koehler, P.; (2007)
Edward Tangl (1848--1908) (/isis/citation/CBB000931655/)

Article Perru, Olivier; (2003)
L'unité dynamique du végétal: Du Petit Thouars (1758-1831) (/isis/citation/CBB000501744/)

Authors & Contributors
Höxtermann, Ekkehard
Kaasch, Michael
Trepl, Ludwig
Potthast, Thomas
Ayres, Peter G.
Munns, David P. D.
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Journal of the History of Biology
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Archives of Natural History
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
APS Press
Pickering & Chatto
Plant physiology
Experiments and experimentation
Schultze, Max
Bertalanffy, Ludwig von
Cuvier, Georges
Haeckel, Ernst
Liebig, Justus von
Schleiden, Matthias Jakob
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
18th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
21st century
Berlin (Germany)
Great Britain
Universität Zürich
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Uniwersytet Lwowski (Lwów, Poland)
Royal Society of London
Mount Wilson Observatory

Be the first to comment!

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

Log in or register to comment