From Gene to Genome as an Integrated system. Scientific, Historical, and Philosophical Perspectives

November 24-25, 2014, Ben-Guiron University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

The idea of what is now called “genomes” and “genomics” goes back to the beginning of modern genetics and cytology in the late nineteenth century. August Weismann’s late-nineteenth-century notion of asymmetric cell divisions and unique sets of nuclear determinants that specify the cell type was finally disproved only by the cloning experiments of John Gurdon in 1958. Drosophila geneticists, most notably Sturtevant, demonstrated in 1925 that genes’ effects are sometimes influenced by neighboring genes in the chromosome (position effect). Richard Goldschmidt’s holistic “germ plasm as a whole” concept of the 1930s did not prove fertile because of its vagueness. However, around the same time, Sewall Wright proposed his farsighted model of hierarchical, integrated genetic systems in the body with evolutionary implications. This is another example of the fact that early on, biologists were aware of the necessity of studying genes as part of the genome.

This workshop focuses on the idea and materialization of the animal genome in the more recent history of biology from the mid-twentieth century. The new concept of the regulatory genome has become a tool with wide implications. Comparative genomics has had a revolutionary impact on animal phylogeny and systematics with strong implications for evolution.

With participants coming from a variety of specialties such as molecular biology, developmental genetics, immunology, evolutionary biology, history of biology, molecular biology and embryology, as well as the philosophy of science, the Workshop aims at generating an intellectual discussion about the history and achievements of modern genomic studies, and the challenges they pose to established concepts such as that of the gene.

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Posted: October 13, 2014