Observation, depiction and description are active forces in the doing of science. Advances in observation and analysis come with advances in techniques of description and communication. In this article, these questions are related to the work of Leonardo da Vinci, 16th-century naturalists and artists like Conrad Gessner and Teodoro Ghisi, and 17th-century micrographers like Robert Hooke.
In 1518, one of the strangest epidemics in recorded history struck the city of Strasbourg. Hundreds of people were seized by an irresistible urge to dance, hop and leap into the air. In houses, halls and public spaces, as fear paralyzed the city and the members of the elite despaired, the dancing continued with mindless intensity. Seldom pausing to eat, drink or rest, many of them danced for days or even weeks. And before long, the chronicles agree, dozens were dying from exhaustion. What was it that could have impelled as many as 400 people to dance, in some cases to death?
In 1603 Federico Cesi, along with four of his friends, founded the first Scientific Academy in Europe, the Accademia dei Lincei, which included Galileo Galillei as a member. Between 1611 and 1630 Cesi undertook an ambitious project to collect and record fossils from his lands around Acquasparta in Umbria. He had drawings and descriptions made of all the excavated fossils, fossil woods and their sites of origin. He died before his work could be published and it was left to his friend Francesco Stelluti to publish a monograph in which he claimed that evidence demonstrated that the fossil woods were formed from stone and were 'not once living'. The corpus of drawings, now in the Royal Collection at Windsor, has allowed the project to be reconstructed and fieldwork in Italy has shown that the complex nature of the fossil preservation could have easily confused the researchers and have led to misinterpretation of the fossils. This research by Cesi is the first to combine field and specimen data to interpret the origin of fossils and has been widely neglected by historians of Science.
During the reign of Louis XIV, anatomical demonstrations became a public attraction in Paris. At the Jardin du Roi, the star performer was Joseph-Guichard Duverney, who attracted hundreds to his anatomy lectures. Simultaneously, Duverney also instructed the Dauphin and his courtiers, lectured to medical students at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital (making off with corpses in the process) and dissected before the Paris Academy of Sciences. Duverney's dramatic, rhetorical and anatomical skills made him the best-known man of science in Louis XIV's Paris.
After a wave of earthquakes in 1692 and 1693, the astronomer John Flamsteed composed an innovative explanation of their causes. He argued that they did not originate underground but were caused by explosions of nitrous and sulphurous particles in the air. Although the idea now sounds strange, Flamsteed's account was expressed in terms that were familiar to his contemporaries in the Royal Society, drawing particularly on Boyle's chemistry and air-pressure experiments. Flamsteed was more unusual in his conviction that the earth was virtually solid; this made him an opponent of structural theories offered by Thomas Burnet, Robert Hooke and Edmond Halley. Flamsteed's ideas were dismissed by Hooke as 'nonsensicall', but by the time they were published, long after his death, they appeared closer to mainstream thinking.
French naturalist. Discovered the binomial theorem and worked on probability theory. In astronomy he suggested that the Earth might have been created by the collision of a comet with the Sun. Based on the cooling rate of iron, he calculated in Théorie de la Terre that the age of the Earth was 75 000 years. This estimate, so much larger than the official 6000 years, was condemned by the Catholic C...
Kant's disputation of 1770 at his inauguration as the metaphysics professor at Königsberg is a good example of the nature of the early modern dissertation and its use as a means of communicating knowledge. The public disputation played an important part in the teaching, examination, publication and ceremonial life of the medieval university. Originally prepared as a text for the public disputation, the dissertation communicated the teachings of individual scholars and institutions and was used by eminent early modern scholars to introduce their ideas and findings. Kant's use of his 1770 disputation also reveals the different channels of communication, both private and public, that paid close attention to knowledge published in dissertations.
In 1776 and 1777 five living electric eels exhibited in London became a sensational spectacle that appealed to anatomists, electricians and connoisseurs of erotica. George Baker's exhibition made visible the 'electric spark' of the electrical eel and a series of experiments were both witnessed by and participated in by members of the Royal Society and the metropolitan elite. Some participants even grasped the eels firmly in their hands and felt the 'electric stroke' of the eel in addition to observing the spark. In their observation of the electric eel some of these spectators transposed the vivid electric spark from the sphere of electricians and anatomists into that of satirical and erotic literature. Here the erotic electric eel proliferated in the literature and the eel took on quite different connotations that nonetheless were reliant on readers knowledge and experience of the exhibition, experiments and the preoccupations of anatomists. George Baker's electric eel exhibition of 1776 and 1777 is then instructive in exploring the production and circulation of knowledge in Georgian Britain. The story of the electric eel in Georgian culture charts the creation of the electric spark and stroke as objects of observation and encounter, their exhibitionary context, and finally their divergent meanings as the electric eel became erotically charged for a metropolitan masculine elite.
Histories of evolutionary thought are dominated by organic evolution. The colossus in our midst that is evolutionary biology casts its shadow over history, making it appear that what is so widespread and important today was always the primary subject of evolutionary speculation. Thus many histories assume that the core meaning of evolution is the change of organic life and that other forms of evolutionary thinking, such as linguistic, social or cultural evolution, are only analogies or offshoots of the main biological evolutionary trunk. Ironically this is an ahistorical understanding. Long before the work of Charles Darwin, scholars were independently developing evolutionary concepts such as descent with modification and divergence from a common stock in order to understand cultural change.
The tensions between public and private science, so familiar to us today, were alive in the science of the industrial revolution. These tensions confronted the members of a society of chemists and natural philosophers, physicians, industrialists and instrument makers who met in London from 1780 to 1787. Their meetings, held in private rooms in coffee houses, provided an ideal forum for their blend of public and private science, reinforced by a vital international network of scientific intelligence. The records of those meetings tell us a good deal about communication among natural philosophers in the 1780s, and show that some, at least in Britain, were well-informed about the latest foreign developments.
During the French Revolution, there appeared a striking and far-ranging medical literature on heredity, reproduction and biological 'perfectibility'. In some ways anticipating ideas associated with modern eugenics, these writings emerged from radical revolutionary projects for 'physical and moral regeneration' and incarnated deep-seated desires to transform French society and make a 'new man' in mind and body. But by breaking down boundaries between public and private life, doctors did more than just try to regulate intimate sexual behaviour. Instead, they proffered a more intimate vision of civic volunteerism, in which sexual hygiene and domestic practices allowed their patients to imagine new forms of society and gave them ways to attain these socio-political dreams. Moreover, they were responding to powerful new worries about heredity and sought to counsel their patients in the ways of family panning. By the end of revolutionary period, then, medical and lay thinkers had transformed the marriage bed and household into a specially controlled environment - a kind of affective laboratory - in which conscientious parents could make healthy children and raise them in the context of specific political and social values.
After Galileo had discovered the four moons of Jupiter in 1609 he became increasingly convinced that the Copernican, heliocentric system of the world was correct. However, this ran against the opinions of the Church and a large number of contemporary astronomers and natural philosophers. The ensuing development culminated in the condemnation of the Copernican system by the Church in 1616 and of Galileo himself, who had propagated the Copernican system in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), in 1633. Nevertheless, there was a constant debate about the right world system during the whole 17th century. Pictorial representation played an important role in it and the illustrations used as book frontispieces were a significant medium for the dispute.
Gaining an insight into what it meant to be a mathematical practitioner in the 17th century is difficult. People who thought themselves mathematical included navigators, sundial makers and book-keepers. For some, the simple use of instruments was construed as mathematical; for others, this was merely a 'showing of tricks'. One profession reliant on mathematics was land surveying. An analysis of this profession throws up many interesting questions about what it meant to be mathematical in early modern England.
Middle-aged Victorians with beards may not sound enticing subjects for a commercial photographer, but Julia Margaret Cameron's dramatic, individualised portraits helped intellectual men to become national celebrities.
This paper examines codes of representation in nineteenth century engineering in Britain in relation to broader visual culture. While engineering was promoted as a rational public enterprise through techniques of spectacular display, engineers who aimed to be taken seriously in the intellectual hierarchies of science had to negotiate suitable techniques for making and using images. These difficulties can be examined in the visual practices that mark the career of engineer David Kirkaldy. Beginning as a bravura naval draughtsman, Kirkaldy later negotiated his status as a serious experimenter in material testing science, changing his style of representation that at first sight seems to be in line with the 'objective' strategy in science of getting nature to represent herself. And although Kirkaldy maintained a range of visual styles to communicate with different audiences, making rhetorical use of several technologies of inscription, from hand drawing to photography, nevertheless, his work does in fact demonstrate new uses of the concept of objectivity in representation when up against the practices of engineering. While these might seem merely pragmatic in comparison to the ethical weight given to the discourse of objective representation in science, in the messy world of collapsing bridges and law suits, virtuous engineers had to develop various forms of visual knowledge as practical science. This was not 'applied science' but a differentiated form of enquiry whose complexities hold as much interest as the better known visual cultures of late nineteenth century science or art.
The botanist and explorer, Ferdinand von Mueller, was the most distinguished of the many German scientists who made important contributions to Australian science during the nineteenth century. This article explores the background to his going to Australia and the way in which he established a scientific career there, and outlines his principal contributions as Victoria's Government Botanist for over 40 years, from 1853 to 1896.
Darwin returned to Shrewsbury in mid-June 1831 and spent that summer learning geology. He made geological maps of Shropshire and visited Llanymynech and other localities. From 3-20th August he joined Sedgwick on his tour of North Wales; they geologised west of Shrewsbury before travelling through Llangollen, Ruthin, Conwy to Bangor finally reaching Anglesey. Darwin left Sedgwick at Menai and walked to Barmouth making a special visit of Cwm Idwal. He returned to Shrewsbury on 29th August to open the letter from Fitzroy inviting him to join the Beagle. During this summer Darwin gained skills in all aspects of geology, including chemical analysis, which were to prove vital in the development of his ideas on natural selection.
Since its inception in 1831, the discussion of political and religious topics had been excluded from the meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) - it was a 'neutral' body. This strategy was designed to both unite men of science with differing religious views, and prevent the Association from becoming embroiled in theological disputes. Although not always successful, the dedication to neutrality remained throughout the BAAS's history and was an important organising principle. This paper investigates how the separation of scientific and religious knowledge played out in practice by examining the speech of William Henry Dallinger, the prominent English microscopical researcher and Methodist preacher. In 1884 Dallinger travelled to Montreal, Canada, to part in the BAAS's fifty-fourth meeting. While in the city he delivered three addresses: a guest lecture to the Association, a presentation to a local theological College and a sermon at Montreal's largest Methodist church. To the Association Dallinger presented his science without any religious commitments, yet in these other venues, and away from the Association's strictures on speech, he presented science and religion as harmonious and inexorably tied. This paper argues that where Dallinger spoke made a difference to what he said, and underlines the value of thinking 'geographically' about encounters between science and religion.
Towards the end of the 1840s, Hermann von Helmholtz began to investigate experimentally the propagation of stimuli within nerves. Helmholtz's experiments on animals and human subjects opened a research field that in the following decades was intensively explored by neurophysiologists and experimental psychologists. Helmholtz's pioneering investigations justify the central place he occupies in accounts of the history of modern psychophysiology. Studying the concrete experimental settings and their local contexts shows how deeply the work of scholars such as Helmholtz is embedded in the history of culture and technology. In particular, the rapidly growing technologies of electromagnetism, which gave rise to telegraphy and electric clocks, facilitated the time measurements of 19th-century physiologists and psychologists.
Despite efforts to lay out the Great Exhibition in a rational arrangement, it was so vast and variegated and overwhelming in its single 18-acre building that it was literally indescribable. Robert Hunt in his Synopsis argued that every visitor needed to find a thread - any thread - through the labyrinth; but this proved elusive, even for professional journalists, who must overall be judged to have failed. With description impossible, journalists tried other strategies, notably epistolary form, and also fiction, which excused the writer from providing any more than a few personal impressions. The legacy of the Exhibition is ambiguous: judged at the time an overwhelming success, it proved to be all too easily forgettable and ephemeral.
An explosion on the Sun in 1859, serendipitously witnessed by amateur astronomer Richard Carrington, plunged telegraphic communications into chaos and bathed two thirds of the Earth's skies in aurorae. Explaining what happened to the Sun and how it could affect Earth, 93 million miles away, helped change the direction of astronomy. From being concerned principally with charting the stars to aid navigation, astronomers became increasingly concerned with what the celestial objects were, how they behaved and how they might affect life on Earth.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, breeders of livestock in the United States and Germany began to approach animal husbandry in a more systematic manner. Responding to changes in ideas about heredity and economic pressures, they imported large numbers of animals from abroad, especially from Great Britain. With these imported breeds they set out to transform their native specimens to better meet the needs of an industrializing nation. Their strategies for animal improvement, which included grading, crossing, and pure breeding, constituted practical experiments into heredity that ran parallel to the work of naturalists. By 1860, the modern system of breeding, with its attention to public registries of pedigrees, gained increasing influence in both contexts.
Just a century ago, skeletons of the modern type of man sufficiently complete and well preserved to be identified unequivocally as Homo sapiens, were discovered for the first time in a Palaeolithic deposit. This article describes the original discovery and the probable appearance of Cro-Magnon man. It considers also the evidence for the belief that his descendants survive today.
The story of a fatal hypnotic séance in a castle in provincial Hungary in 1894 was sensationalised by the media and propelled across national and social boundaries within a few days. It stirred public feelings and compelled prestigious medical mandarins, legal professionals and social commentators of the day to express wide-ranging views concerning hypnotic practice. The case intensified social and professional anxieties surrounding hypnosis in late 19th century culture and illustrates the complex relationship between medical hypnotic research, lay hypnosis and widely reported and sensationalised forensic cases.
Anatomical waxworks lay at the centre of a composite world of social interaction in mid-18th-century Bologna. Sponsored by Pope Benedict XIV and included among Grand Tour attractions, they earned fame and authority for wax-modellers such as Anna Morandi, Giovanni Manzolini and Ercole Lelli. By dissecting bodies, making waxwork models of them and demonstrating their anatomical collections, these artificers became protagonists of the world of anatomy. Offering representations of the inner body some thought more faithful than the real thing, their collections gave expression to a new set of relations between the role of artefacts in the production and communication of knowledge, the emergence of new apparatuses for viewing and investigating the human body, the legacy of codified visual conventions and the authenticating power of natural spectacle.
During the 18th century, mineralogy constituted an integral part of natural history, sharing the concerns of botany and zoology over collection and classification. In Paris, many people owned private mineral collections, but these have been largely neglected by historians. Here, I examine the place of private collections in the history of mineralogy, arguing that they contributed socially, economically and intellectually to the field in a period before the dominance of the large national collection. I also show how the interests of private collectors diverged from those of the curators of public collections, particularly following the French Revolution.
In a concluding session, David Knight (University of Durham) took the title '"One great slaughter-house the warring world"--living in revolutionary times'. He pointed out that Darwinian thought had to contend with three revolutions. First, the political revolutions of 1776 and 1789, leading to the terror of the 1790s that washed over the English Midlands leaving Priesley's house burnt and Priestley himself exiled to America. Second, the scientific revolution, which valued exact knowledge and specialism rather than wide syntheses. Third, the Romantic revolution which emphasized the tragic rather than the cheerful optimism of Darwin's heroic couplets. For all these reasons Darwin's influence waned. However, Knight finished on an optimistic note that echoed King-Hele's opening address, saying that in our own times, as suspicion of experts grows, and some, at least, see science as a liberating force, Darwin's fame may recover. Negotiations are in process for the publication of the proceedings under the title 'The genius of Erasmus Darwin: proceedings of a bicentennial conference', and a website has been constructed that contains details of all speakers (http://www.bham.ac.uk/erasmusdarwin/).
In the first decades of the 20th century, soil bacteriologists promised to revolutionize farming practice, much in the same way that medical bacteriologists, in the previous century, had transformed pathology, public health and sanitary engineering. Following the isolation of the microorganisms responsible for nitrification and nitrogen fixation, American soil scientists anticipated the time when farmers could 'seed' their crops and lands with these beneficial bacteria. Soil bacteriologists, during the early 20th century, never fulfilled the promise of supplying a biological source of unending soil fertility. However, in their search for productive microbes, these same researchers directed attention to the underappreciated dimensions of bacterial metabolism and microbial ecology.
Unquestionably, the tank resembles an armadillo, a caterpillar, a diplodocus, a motor car, and a traveling circus. It has more feet than a caterpillar, and they have steel toenails which take it over the ground; its hide is more resistant than an armadillo’s, and its beauty of form would make the diplodocus jealous. No pianist was ever more temperamental; no tortoise ever more phlegmatic (Palmer, 1917, 26).
Thus, the American war correspondent Frederick Pal- mer (1873–1958) recalled the impressions which the tanks of the First World War left on him. His choice of analogies is telling, but not unique; particularly the description of tanks as ‘Diplodocuses’ appears to have been common in the trenches.1 Over time, these massive dinosaurs came to signify much of the impression that had been left by the first tanks: powerful, yet ungainly; vigorous but devoid of intelligence. Palmer’s connection of the Diplodocus with beauty is actually quite exceptional. But the most signifi- cant fact is that the animal had apparently become such a well-known beast that soldiers of various nationalities could all understand its similarity to the armoured vehicle in the first place.
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In November 1910, Shirase Nobu (1861-1946) sailed from Tokyo Bay aboard the Kainan Maru as part of an international race for the South Pole. The Japanese had no history of polar exploration and looked to British precedence to compensate for their lack of experience. Following the British example required that they include a scientific dimension to their venture. It is clear, however, that Shirase and his men had little scientific understanding. Nevertheless, on failing to reach the Pole, science became the central aim of the expedition and the primary means to declaring their efforts a success.
This article introduces the reader to the life and work of Elisabeth Goldschmidt, the founding mother of the field of genetics in Israel. It concurrently strives to uncover the roots and development of genetics in Israel, tracing the crucial transition from classical Drosophila genetics to human genetics and the shift from a Germanic tradition of scientific research to an American one. Goldschmidt's personal biography is inextricably linked to the early stages of genetic research in Israel. The narrative of her life could have been a heroic and inspiring account of a female scientist who 'had it all', had its end been less tragic. Nevertheless, her life was rich, including a path of achievement and trail-blazing coupled with the joy and satisfaction she gleaned from her scientific work.
After the revolutionary conflicts of the 1910s, the Mexican state sought to bring peace to the country's obstreperous, rebellious and often downright unknown rural provinces through the establishment of a new social pact. Peasants were to embrace political loyalty, productivity, and secularization in return for land, education and healthcare. Success depended on multiple regional factors and even healthcare, often presented as a neutral, politically uncharged benefit, faced ample opposition. Using four examples, I seek to examine why certain regions embraced post-revolutionary healthcare, while others preferred to remain wedded to 'traditional' or Catholic medical institutions and practices.
'What is it that appears to make the mentally ill so vulnerable to therapeutic experimentation?'(1) One commentator wrote in the 1990s, regarding mental hospitals as repressive, coercive and custodial institutions where medical staff subjected patients to orgies of experimentation. A careful study of surviving documents of the Devon County Lunatic Asylum (DCLA), however, paints a different picture. Rather than medical staff, patients' relatives and the wider community exercised a considerable influence over a patient's hospital admission and discharge, rendering the therapeutic regime in the middle of the 20th century the result of intense negotiations between the hospital and third parties.
Gershwin's song 'I Got Rhythm' serves here as a backdrop representing the social context of the inter-war years. On center stage is a particular aspect of the history of birth control--the application of a new theory of ovulation to contraception. Starting in 1928, a series of experiments revealed a biochemical rhythm in the female reproductive cycle, which contradicted the widespread idea that ovulation and pregnancy could occur at any time. This discovery was applied to a new contraceptive method, the rhythm method, which enjoyed significant popularity during the 1930s, especially among Catholics. For a short period, women could join Ethel Merman in the refrain 'I got rhythm, I got my man, who could ask for anything more?' But the rhythm method has not lived to its promise, and the play goes on em leader
Using tissue transplantation, the British scientist Peter Brian Medawar showed how extrinsic cells could be permanently integrated into an animal's body without provoking immune responses. With his study of this phenomenon--which he called 'actively acquired tolerance'--Medawar was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1960 along with the Australian scientist Frank Macfarlane Burnet, who theoretically predicted the possibility. The monumental work of Medawar stems from his long and deep interest in the nature of living organisms' changes over time, such as growth, aging, and evolution. In particular, his concern for the phenomenon of decline played a critical role in his research design regarding tolerance and its interpretation.
What does it look like to be the carrier of a genetic disease? Carrier status may be determined through the visual analysis of both genotypic and phenotypic evidence. Over the past 70 years, clinical geneticists have depended upon multiple strategies for identifying disease carriers within a family. This has included pedigree analysis, which was based upon clinical observations of individual family members and, in recent decades, cytogenetic and molecular methods. Newer techniques have offered novel opportunities to actually see the suspected etiological markers of certain genetic diseases, such as Fragile X syndrome. The visualization of these markers has both clarified and confused previously observed inheritance patterns, in some cases leading to the development of newly distinct diagnostic categories. As a result, what it means to be affected by, or the carrier of, a genetic disease has continuously evolved.
This paper examines how pesticides and their technologies were sold to farmers and pilots throughout the midtwentieth century. It principally considers how marketing rhetoric and advertisement strategies used by chemical companies and aerial spraying firms influenced the practices and perspectives of farm producers in the Great Plains. In order to convince landowners and agricultural leaders to buy their pesticides, chemical companies generated advertisements that championed local crop health, mixture accuracy, livestock safety and a chemical-farming 'way of life' that kept fields healthy and productive. Combining notions of safety, accuracy and professionalism with pest eradication messages reinforced the standards that landowners, pilots and agriculturalists would hold regarding toxicity and risk when spraying their fields. As the politics of health changed in the aftermath of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, these companies and aerial spraying outfits responded by keeping to a vision of agricultural health that required poisons for protection through technological accuracy.
After the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Francisco Franco's emphasis on dam building became so intense that it is still today associated with his dictatorial rule. Rather than being purely a personal obsession, however, this intensive period of reservoir construction was the result of the influential political role played by engineers from the early years of the regime. During the years 1946-1961 some of these engineers undertook the 'total transformation' of the Noguera Ribagorzana river basin in the Catalonian Pyrenees. But this explicitly 'totalitarian' project encountered important limitations posed both by competing state agencies and by the basin's geology. Analysing the efforts of these engineers allows for new understandings of the Francoist regime and of the place of science, technology, and the landscape within it.
Statisticians R.A. Fisher and Joseph Berkson have become infamous for ending up on the "wrong" side of the debate over the evidence linking smoking and lung cancer during the 1950s, and scholars have speculated about their personal motives in the controversy. But there were many senior biostatisticians and epidemiologists voicing similar concerns about the quality of the evidence at the time, albeit with less inflammatory rhetoric. This debate occurred during a time when epidemiological research methods commonly used today were understood by few and were only just beginning to work their way into public health and medicine. All of the participants in the debate over smoking and lung cancer saw the need for explicit and rigorous standards for evaluating etiological hypotheses, but they held conflicting views about what those standards should be. The differing opinions on the evidence reflected two different models of etiological research--controlled experiment as the crucial, objective test of a causal hypothesis versus inferential judgment based on a diverse body of evidence. This debate has relevance for current epidemiological practice, as tension between these two views still remains.
Penrose diagrams gave mid-twentieth century physicists studying General Relativity (GR) a new tool for understanding Einstein's theory of gravity. Starting in 1962 they allowed new understandings and conceptualizations of the mathematical objects of theoretical physics. One origin of the diagrams is found in Roger Penrose's engagement with the art of "impossible objects". These new understandings contributed to the "renaissance" GR experienced starting in the late 1950s. By following the diagrams through the GR community, the interrelation of research and pedagogy is explicated. This interrelation rapidly disseminated the tools to new workers in the field, further amplifying the effect of this new theoretical tool on disciplinary growth.
Mabel Boyden was a biologist, active in the field of immunochemical research and also a custodian of the Serological Museum at Rutgers University between 1948 and 1974. Her recollection of a trip to obtain the blood of the horseshoe crab is revealing: it contains figures of speech that give a glimpse into the immunological discourse of the mid-1960s; it shows how her thinking was torn between different ways of doing biology; and it offers an insight into the transition of biology into the modern, molecular era.
In the 1960s, stories of children fighting cancer, previously absent from the British news, started to feature ever more prominently in the national press. Conventional treatments could not keep children alive for many months, so the promise of a cure through the use of an alternative anti-cancer 'serum' was not easily dismissed as quackery. The Ministry of Health and cancer research organisations struggled to find a fair and honest way to inform the public and affected families about childhood leukaemia without raising or crushing hope.
There is a long history of concern in Britain for how animals are treated. Until the 1960s, these concerns were expressed largely in terms of cruelty or suffering, which was prevented through various acts of Parliament. Over the period 1964-71, amidst public debates about intensive farming, a new discourse of animal welfare emerged. To understand what welfare meant and how it became established as a term, a concept and a target of government regulation, it is necessary to examine farming politics and practices, the existing tradition of animal protection and attempts to rethink the nature of animal suffering.
The concept of heredity played a powerful role in structuring 19th-century debates over sickness, morality, class, race, education, social change and evolution. But there was very little agreement as to which qualities were heritable and how new hereditary variants were acquired. In consequence, notions of heredity existed in a wide variety of forms, expressing anything from extreme determinism and a belief in the incorrigibility of individuals, social and racial groups, to unleavened optimism, and a faith in ultimate human perfectibility. This article explores these rich hereditarian discourses to convey an impression of a century that was at least as preoccupied with the concept of biological inheritance as we are today.