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Marvelling at the Marvel: The Supposed Conversion of A. D. Darbishire to Mendelism

Rachel A. Ankeny
Journal of the History of Biology
Vol. 33, No. 2 (Autumn, 2000), pp. 315-347
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4331587
Page Count: 33
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Marvelling at the Marvel: The Supposed Conversion of A. D. Darbishire to Mendelism
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Abstract

The so-called "biometric-Mendelian controversy" has received much attention from science studies scholars. This paper focuses on one scientist involved in this debate, Arthur Dukinfield Darbishire, who performed a series of hybridization experiments with mice beginning in 1901. Previous historical work on Darbishire's experiments and his later attempt to reconcile Mendelian and biometric views describe Darbishire as eventually being "converted" to Mendelism. I provide a new analysis of this episode in the context of Darbishire's experimental results, his underlying epistemology, and his influence on the broader debate surrounding the rediscovery and acceptance of Mendelism. I investigate various historiographical issues raised by this episode in order to reflect on the idea of "conversion" to a scientific theory. Darbishire was an influential figure who resisted strong forces compelling him to convert prematurely due to his requirements that the new theory account for particularly important anomalous facts and answer the most pressing questions in the field.

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