Dibner Institute Seminar in History of Biology:  From Embryology to Evo-Devo

Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA
May 30-June 6, 2001

The Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology announces its Seminar in the History of Biology, to be held the evening of May 30 through breakfast on June 6, 2001, at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  This year's seminar will explore the history of developmental biology, from its inception as "embryology" to the most recent approaches known as molecular developmental genetics and "evo-devo." We will examine changing ways of looking at the  developing individual organism, both in itself and in the context of evolution and inheritance.  Do organisms differentiate as they grow, or are they preformed?  How does morphogenesis occur, by what causes, to what extent it is a purely material process, and how we know? Which organisms should we study, using what methods, and how can we capture and (re)present those results to others?  What difference does evolution make?  

 Through WW II, developmental studies found a place in medical schools as embryology  and also in "general biology" programs.  A rapid shift from embryology to developmental biology, starting in the 1950s, reflected professional, institutional, epistemological, and methodological differences.  During subsequent decades, study of development has experienced a changing and sometimes antagonistic relation to genetics and to evolution.  Along the way came molecular developmental genetics.  Now, with much fanfare, we have "evo-devo."  This raises the questions, what do we gain from these new labels, what exactly is going on now, and how do  contemporary approaches compare to previous approaches?  By bringing together historians, philosophers, and biologists, we will be able to explore such questions in lively and multi-disciplinary ways.   Since many of the original important biological studies took place at the Marine Biological Laboratory, this is a particularly appropriate venue.  And participation by some of the leading biologists who have made the most difference over the past decades will provide important perspectives on the history and philosophy of developmental biology.  

 We seek a diverse multi-disciplined and interdisciplinary group in order to promote rich discussions and cross-fertilization of ideas and approaches.  Fertile collaborations have resulted from past Dibner seminars, and we expect the same this year.  Organizers for the Dibner History of Biology Seminars are John Beatty, James Collins, and Jane Maienschein (contact [log in to unmask] about this seminar).  For futher information about the seminar series and for application materials and financial aid applications (15 January deadline), please contact : Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Dibner Building, MIT E56-100, Cambridge  MA  02139.  Or contact Carla Chrisfeld [log in to unmask],  or at 617-253-8721.