History of Genetics

Courses and Syllabi

Biology 36: History of Genetics

Dartmouth College
Fall 2009

T, Th 10-11:50; x-hour W 3-4

Michael Dietrich
113I Centerra Biolabs       
Office Hours: T 12-12:45 and Th 12-1:00 in 214 Gilman and by appointment

Course Description:

In this course we will survey major developments in the history of genetics from Mendel to the Human Genome Project.  Drawing upon a mix of primary and secondary sources, we will consider how choices of problems and organisms shaped genetic research programs, how genetics reflects its wider social context, especially in its association with eugenics, how different techniques defined the limits of genetic research, and how the rise of molecular biology transformed genetics’ core concepts.


Diane Paul, Controlling Human Heredity

Robert Kohler, Lords of the Fly

Michel Morange, A History of Molecular Biology

Sources, Their Use and Acknowledgment (www.dartmouth.edu/~sources/)


Midterm Examination


Short essay format --Timed take home

Assigned 10/20

Due 10/27

Research Papers



4-5 pages each

- Assigned topics



(1) Due 10/6

(2) Due 10/22

(3) Due 11/12

(4) Due 12/1

Final Examination


Short Essay Format--Timed take home

Assigned 11/12

Due 12/8

Webpage: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~bio70/syllabus.html


Disability Notice:   Students with disabilities enrolled in this course and who may need disability-related classroom accommodations are encouraged to make an appointment to see me before the end of the second week of the term. All discussions will remain confidential, although the Student Accessibility Services office may be consulted to discuss appropriate implementation of any accommodation requested.

Religious Observances: Some students may wish to take part in religious observances that occur during this academic term.  If you have a religious observance that conflicts with your participation in the course, please meet with me before the end of the second week of the term to discuss appropriate accommodations.

Schedule (Subject to Change):

9/24    Th       Introduction

9/29    T          The Rise of Mendelism: Was Mendel a Mendelian?


Gregor Mendel (1865)"Experiments in Plant Hybridization." Originally published in Verhandlungen des naturforschenden Vereines in Brünn, Bd. IV für das Jahr 1865, Abhandlungen, 3-47.

Robert Olby (1997) "Mendel, Mendelism, and Genetics"

Carl Correns (1900) "Mendel's law concerning the behavior of progeny of varietal hybrids," First published in English as: Correns, C., 1950. G. "Mendel's law concerning the behavior of progeny of varietal hybrids." Genetics, 35(5, pt 2): 33-41. Originally published as: Correns, C. 1900. G. "Mendels Regel über das Verhalten der Nachkommenschaft der Rassenbastarde." Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, 18: 158-168.

Hugo de Vries (1900) "Concerning the law of segregation of hybrids." First published in English as: De Vries, H.. 1950. Concerning the law of segregation of hybrids. Genetics, 35(5, pt 2): 30-32. Originally published as: De Vries, H. 1900. Sur la loi de disjonction des hybrides. Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences (Paris), 130: 845-847.

10/1    Th       The Mendelian-Biometrician Controversy

William Bateson (1901), "Problems of Heredity as a Subject for Horticultural Investigation," Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society 25: 54-61.

Francis Galton (1898) "A diagram of heredity," Nature, 57:293.

10/6    T          From Breeders to Geneticists: Agriculture and Professionalization

Diane Paul and Barbara Kimmelman, "Mendel in America: Theory and Practice, 1900-1919," in The American Development of Biology, R. Rainger, K. Benson, and J. Maienschein, eds. (Rutgers University Press, 1988),pp. 281-310.

Donald N. Duvick (2001) "Biotechnology in the 1920s: The Development of Hybrid Maize," Nature Reviews Genetics 2, 69-74.

D. F. Jones (1924) "The Attainment of Homozygosity in Inbred Strains of Maize," Genetics 9: 405-418.

10/8    Th       T. H. Morgan and the Drosophila Breeder Reactor

Robert Kohler, The Lords of the Fly, Chpts 1-6

T. H. Morgan (1910) "Sex Limited Inheritance in Drosophila," Science 32: 120-122.

10/13  T          Eugenics and Social Reform

Diane Paul, Controlling Human Heredity, Chpts 1-4

Albert Edward Wiggam (1922) "The New Decalogue of Science," The Century Magazine, 1-16.

10/15  Th       No Class

 10/20 T         Race and Genetics in the United States

Diane Paul, Controlling Human Heredity, Chpt 6

A.H. Estabrook and I.E. McDougle (1926) Mongrel Virginians: The Win Tribe (The Williams and Wilkins Company). Introduction of Estabrook's copy with added keys to pseudonyms.

10/22  Th       Nazi Eugenics and the Racial State

Diane Paul, Controlling Human Heredity, Chpt 5.

Paul Popenoe (1934) "The German Sterilization Law," Journal of Heredity 25: 257-261.

10/27  T           The Problem of the Gene: Muller, Stadler and X-ray Mutagenesis


H. J. Muller (1922) "Variation due to change in the individual gene," The American Naturalist 56:32-50.

H. J. Muller (1927) "Artificial Transmutation of the Gene," Science 66: 84-87.

10/29  Th       Not Drosophila: Different Organisms, Different Genetics

*Harriet B. Creighton and Barbara McClintock (1931), "A Correlation of Cytological and Genetical Crossing-Over in Zea mays," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 17: 492-497.

*Barbara McClintock (1953) "Induction of Instability at Selected Loci in Maize," Genetics 38: 579-599.

Nathaniel Comfort (1995) "Two Genes, No Enzyme: A Second Look at Barbara McClintock and the 1951 Cold Spring Harbor Symposium," Genetics 140: 1161-1166.


11/3    T          Big Bands: Cytogenetics and Salivary Chromosomes

T. S. Painter (1934), "A New Method for the Study of Chromosome Aberrations and the Plotting of Chromosome Maps in Drosophila melanogaster," Genetics 19: 175-188.

Helmut Zacharias (1995) "Emil Heitz: Chloroplasts, Heterochromatin, and Polytene Chromosomes," Genetics 141: 7-14.

Oren S. Harman (2005) "Cyril Dean Darlington: The Man Who "Invented" the Chromsome," Nature Reviews Genetics 6: 79-85.

 11/5   Th       Inventing Human Genetics

Diane Paul, Controlling Human Heredity, Chpt 7.

James V. Neel, Hiroo Kato, and William J. Schull (1974) "Mortality in the Children of Atomic Bomb Survivors and Controls," Genetics 76: 311-326. http://www.genetics.org/cgi/reprint/76/2/311

M. Susan Lindee (2000) "Genetic Disease Since 1945," Nature Reviews Genetics 1: 236-241.

James Crow (1995) "Quarreling Geneticists and a Diplomat," Genetics 140: 421-426.

11/10  T          Better than Darwin: Evolutionary Genetics and Neo-Darwinism

Reading: Robert Kohler, The Lords of the Fly, Chpt 8.

Sewall Wright (1931) "Evolution in Mendelian Populations," Genetics 16: 97-159. http://www.esp.org/foundations/genetics/classical/holdings/w/sw-31.pdf

William Provine (2004) "Ernst Mayr: Genetics and Speciation, Genetics 167: 1041-1046.

11/12  Th       The Problem with Pathways: Genes In Action

Robert Kohler, The Lords of the Fly, Chpt 7

G. W. Beadle and E. L. Tatum (1941), "Genetic Control of Biochemical Reactions in Neurospora," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 27: 499-506.

Maxine Singer& Paul Berg (2004) "George Beadle: From Genes to Proteins," Nature Reviews Genetics 5: 949-954.

 11/17 T         From the Double Helix to the Central Dogma

James Watson and Francis Crick (1953), "A Structure for Deoxyribonucleic Acid," Nature 737-738.

Francis Crick (1970) "The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology ," Nature 227: 561-563.

Michel Morange, A History of Molecular Biology

11/19  Th       The RNA Revolution

Michel Morange, A History of Molecular Biology

11/24  T           No Class

11/26 Th        Thanksgiving -- No Class

12/1    T          The Human Genome Project

Leslie Roberts, "Controversial from the Start," Science (2001) 291: 1182-1188.

Rachel Ankeny (2003) "Sequencing the genome from nematode to human: changing methods, changing science," Endeavour 27: 87-92

Henry T. Greely, Human Genome Diversity: What About the Other Human Genome Project?," Nature Reviews Genetics 2: 222-227.