Questions tagged [history]

Questions relating to how the field of biology has developed over time.

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44
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1answer
13k views

What am I looking at in Franklin's Photo 51 of DNA?

Here's Rosalind Franklin's famous Photo 51, the X-ray diffraction image of DNA from which Watson and Crick deduced its structure: My understanding is that it depicts a short segment of DNA shown from ...
22
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2answers
4k views

Why should a tumor look like a crab?

Origin of the word "cancer" The disease was first called cancer by Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC). He is considered the “Father of Medicine”. Hippocrates used the terms carcinos and ...
20
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3answers
1k views

Impact of Alan Turing's approach to morphogenesis

Shortly before his untimely passing, the computing pioneer Alan Turing published his most cited paper The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis (1952). The central question for Turing was: how does a ...
18
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2answers
356 views

Why is there now only one Salmonella species?

Once upon a time, I chanced upon an old microbiology book that detailed the rather colorful world of enterobacteria. Salmonella in particular stood out, as it seemed there were a lot of species: typhi ...
15
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10answers
2k views

A good book for history of biology/biotechnology for lay people

I have many friends who are interested in Biology and want to know more about the subject in general (like a history of biology, from Darwin's theory, to DNA structure discovery, to the human genome ...
15
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1answer
2k views

What did Richard Feynman contribute to molecular biology?

Some time ago, I read James Gleick's "Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman", a wonderful biography of Feynman and, by extension, most of modern physics. In this book, the author mentions ...
15
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2answers
840 views

Did Darwin ever reach the conclusion that selection will remove variation?

According to simple models of selection the genetic variance in a population should be reduced by selection. (Fisher's fundamental theorem states that the rate at which a population can evolve is ...
13
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1answer
1k views

What is the evidence that plants and animals had a common ancestor?

According to the theory of evolution (which I don't dispute), plants and animals evolved from a common ancestor, probably a eukaryote. I'd like to know how we know that to be true. Specifically how ...
12
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2answers
5k views

ECG wave names origin

Why do electrocardiogram waves go P, Q, R, S, T and not like A, B, C, D? Is there any specific reason behind this?
12
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2answers
2k views

Why aren't 'exons' named 'introns'?

Why are introns called 'introns' when they are the actual ones who are getting spliced out from the pre-mRNA. Shouldn't exons be named introns as they are the ones that are 'in' and are not 'exiting'? ...
11
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5answers
614 views

What was the first piece of work in computational biology?

What was the first piece of work in computational biology? I'm ideally looking for a paper. I am not interested in works that involve data management or data analysis but work that model biological ...
11
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2answers
23k views

Why are the Galápagos islands so special?

Why did Darwin formulate his theory of evolution just after his visit to the Galápagos islands? Why were they so special from an evolutionary point of view?
11
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2answers
11k views

What did we learn with Nazi human experimentation?

Was there actually any useful knowledge gained from the Nazi experiments on human test subjects? Wikipedia cites freezing and phosphine gas reactions, but I would like to know other potential results ...
11
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1answer
867 views

Restriction enzymes, how are the recognition sequences determined?

How were the recognition sequences (e.g. GAATTC of EcoRI, GGATCC of BamHI) characterised? Text books only list the recognition ...
11
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1answer
4k views

Did the eugenics program in Nazi Germany have a measurable effect? [closed]

Did the killing or sterilisation of people considered as living a "life unworthy of life" in Nazi Germany have any measurable effect on the "average health" of Germany? Is there any statistical ...
10
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1answer
2k views

Darwin's first sketch of a phylogenetic tree

Coming from Darwin's notebook this first sketch of a phylogenetic tree became one of the most emblematic image from Darwin's work. I have a hard time to read what is written on it. What is written ...
10
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2answers
209 views

Acknowledging differentiation of species, in historical times

This is at least partly an historical question, and I am not even remotely a biologist of any sort, so apologies beforehand if it's a little obscure. I often wonder how many distinctions were made in ...
9
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1answer
6k views

When did mouth pipetting stop becoming a way to handle liquids in a lab?

Almost all modern lab protocols have an addendum prohibiting pipetting by mouth, instead mandating that a Gilson pipette, a rubber pipette ball, or a serological Pipet-Aid be used. However, it was ...
9
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2answers
324 views

How was the resemblance between apes and humans explained in pre-Darwinian biology?

Humans and apes have somewhat obvious similarities, these must have been apparent to natural philosophers before the possibility of a common ancestry was first proposed in the mid-1800's. These ...
8
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2answers
5k views

How many species did Carl Linnaeus classify?

How many species did Carl Linnaeus (senior) classify?
8
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1answer
672 views

First discovery of long-term depression?

LTP was first described by Tim Bliss and Terje Lømo in their paper Long-lasting potentiation of synaptic transmission in the dentate area of the anaesthetized rabbit following stimulation of the ...
8
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1answer
213 views

Original paper about the all or none law for neurons

I am looking for the original paper about the all or none law for neural activity. I know that there is a very old article about the all or none law for mammalian heart muscle fibers, but I'm ...
7
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2answers
263 views

Do we have fundamental conflict in biology?

As saying "fundamental conflict", I mean something like two (or more) widely accepted results from different areas (or scales) can not exist logically together. In physics, there have been three ...
6
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2answers
456 views

Which species were first described by Charles Darwin?

There are many plants and animals named for the naturalist Charles Darwin, such as Darwin's Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii), but which were named by him? I'm finding it difficult to find such a list.
6
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2answers
199 views

Did Carl Linnaeus ever name a species he never saw?

According to this post Carl Linnaeus named more than 13,000 species which is definitely quite impressive. If we consider a 50 years career it makes about 5 species per week! It would feel impressive ...
6
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1answer
135 views

Who are these biologists?

I know the third one in the front row is James Watson. Does anyone recognize the others?
6
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3answers
238 views

Did early 20th century researchers state why they used E. coli as a model organism?

I am investigating the early uses of E. coli as a model organism. Sadly, many early 20th century papers are not in English. In those that are, I have been unable to find explicit statements as to why ...
6
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1answer
146 views

On which date did the official name change of Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis change?

When did the change of official name from Lactobacillus sanfrancisco to Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis happen? An answer ((to the exact day OR within a few days) AND the name of the conference at ...
6
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2answers
41k views

Why was the Davson-Danielli model rejected?

According to my textbook, Davson-Danielli's model of a phospholipid bilayer sandwiched between two layers of globular protein was incorrect. The nonpolar protein portions would separate the polar ...
6
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1answer
94 views

When was it understood that a male haemophilia sufferer can't pass it on to his sons?

Haemophilia A and B are both X-chromosome mutations, so a sufferer necessarily inherits the disease from his mother. She won't have serious symptoms unless both of her X chromosomes have the mutation, ...
5
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1answer
9k views

What is a microsome?

This site says: In cell biology, microsomes are vesicle-like artifacts re-formed from pieces of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) when eukaryotic cells are broken-up in the laboratory; microsomes are ...
5
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1answer
295 views

What were the camels' humps good for back in the polar areas?

I've heard that camels lived in the North America formerly and just in the last few thousands years they've migrated to the hot deserts. Thus they allegedly utilized the adaptations against the cold ...
5
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2answers
135 views

Books about famous experiments in biology - 'methods of investigation'

I'll explain briefly what I need (hoping to find something) : I wanted to know if someone knew about a book that in a way or another talked about the greatest experiments in biology (Griffith, Avery-...
5
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2answers
200 views

Research from the early molecular genetics era that supported protein as the primary carrier of genetic information?

I can't seem to find anything on my own. Surely there were experiments performed (possibly using bacteriophages) that managed to come to this conclusion? Specifically I'm interested in anything pre-...
5
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2answers
15k views

Why are the sex chromosomes called X and Y?

Is there a specific reason that the letter Y is used as the symbol for the male chromosome and X is used for the female chromosome?
5
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2answers
2k views

How was the Huntington's disease gene's location found?

I read in the book "Why we get sick." by Nesse and Williams that: Steady detective work and fabulous luck have enabled geneticists to pinpoint the Huntington's gene on the short arm of chromosome ...
5
votes
2answers
259 views

Names of different cyclins

Different types of cell cyclins are designated as a to y Why are some letters like m, n, p, q.. etc. skipped? Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclin
5
votes
1answer
319 views

Why is E.coli used as a model?

Is there a reason for the choice of E.coli as a model for many bacterial systems? Other bacteria such as B.subtilis are also used, but why is E. coli preferred?
5
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1answer
169 views

Darwin's views on Lamarckian Heredity?

Currently I'm reading She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, a fascinating book about heredity by the popular science author Carl Zimmer. While reading this I ...
5
votes
1answer
417 views

History: Do evolutionary and ecological processes occur at the same timescales?

Classically, it was thought that evolutionary processes occurred at a much slower pace than demographic/ecological processes. Nobody, ever thought about incorporating both processes into the same ...
5
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2answers
115 views

Is there a standard reference for the importance of tumor heterogeneity?

In a recent post, Philip Gerlee highlighted the two biggest contributions of mathematical oncology to cancer research: (1) increasing focus on the progress of cancer as an evolutionary process, and (2)...
5
votes
1answer
149 views

Who was the first to talk about evolvability?

"Evolvability is the capacity of a system for adaptive evolution." (source) There are several other definitions though: Who was the first person to use the word "evolvability"? Who was the first to ...
4
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1answer
321 views

Was Darwin aware of the difficulties behind the concept of species?

Introduction The concept of species is a very old concept that suffers from not being a natural category. There exists no single definition that would categorize living beings into groups and that ...
4
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2answers
183 views

What did Francis Crick and James Watson discover that Rosalind Franklin didn't?

I've recently been introduced to the history of DNA research from Miescher to Franklin, Crick, and Watson, and I've found that Franklin had figured out a great many number of things out that Crick and ...
4
votes
1answer
6k views

When was it discovered XY chromosomes decide the sex of a child in humans?

Several stories are told from before-genetic-age (books and movies are my reference, the one present in my mind is Marie-Antoinette by Copola) in which we can always see that women are blamed for ...
4
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1answer
2k views

Who created the codon wheel chart (not as a table)

I'm trying to find out who created or first used the codon wheel chart as far as we can know? (I don't mean the tabular format)
4
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1answer
408 views

Was Raymond Gosling supervised by Rosalind Franklin? [closed]

The story of how the structure of DNA was deduced is fairly complicated and controversial, but most parties agree that a key pieces of data was "Photo 51", an X-ray diffraction image of DNA taken by ...
4
votes
1answer
448 views

What is the origin of the name “λ phage”?

The lambda bacteriophage which infects E. coli was first discovered by Esther Lederberg in 1950. However, in the earliest paper on the lambda phage that I could find, I was unable to find the ...
4
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1answer
2k views

Why are plant buds called 'eyes'?

I was reading the etymology of the Latinate English verb 'inoculate' which contains the following part that generated the question entitled above: [...] inoculare "graft in, implant a bud or eye of ...
4
votes
1answer
968 views

When was the purpose of bone marrow discovered?

I'm currently reading William Cheselden's book Osteographia or The Anatomy of the Bones, which was published in 1733 (for the pretty pictures, naturally; not up to date anatomy). When he addresses the ...