Intellectual property, plant breeding and the making of Mendelian genetics

Abstract

Advocates of “Mendelism” early on stressed the usefulness of Mendelian principles for breeders. Ever since, that usefulness—and the favourable opinion of Mendelism it supposedly engendered among breeders—has featured in explanations of the rapid rise of Mendelian genetics. An important counter-tradition of commentary, however, has emphasized the ways in which early Mendelian theory in fact fell short of breeders’ needs. Attention to intellectual property, narrowly and broadly construed, makes possible an approach that takes both the tradition and the counter-tradition seriously, by enabling a more complete description of the theory-reality shortfall and a better understanding of how changing practices, on and off the Mendelians’ experimental farms, functioned to render that shortfall unproblematic. In the case of plant breeding in Britain, a perennial source of lost profits and disputes over ownership was the appearance of individual plants departing from their varietal types—so-called “rogues.” Mendelian plant varieties acquired a reputation for being rogue-free, and so for demonstrating the correctness of Mendelian principles , at a time when Mendelians were gradually taking control of the means for distributing their varieties. Mendelian breeders protected their products physically from rogue-inducing contamination in such a way that when rogues did appear, the default explanation—that contamination had somehow occurred—ensured that there was no threat to Mendelian principles

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Gregory Radick
University of Leeds

References found in this work

Other Histories, Other Biologies.Gregory Radick - 2005 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 56:3-.
Physics in the Galtonian Sciences of Heredity.Gregory Radick - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (2):129-138.

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Citations of this work

Physics in the Galtonian Sciences of Heredity.Gregory Radick - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (2):129-138.
Bruno to Brünn; or the Pasteurization of Mendelian Genetics.Dominic Berry - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48:280-286.
What is a Text?Adrian Wilson - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (2):341-358.

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