I have been flicking through a Pelican book on Genetics that was published in 1948 and it has some really interesting bits in it (even though one or two outdated word usages did occasionally make me baulk – it is after all nearly 70 years old).
At the time this book was published the world was still 5 years away from being enlightened to the exact structure of DNA and the assumption that genes must be composed of protein largely prevailed. Although 1948 was nearly 90 years after the Swiss chemist Friedrich Miescher had isolated ‘nuclein’ (a name that was later changed to ‘nucleic acid’ and then finally ‘deoxyribonucleic acid’, aka DNA) most scientists of the day agreed that DNA was too simple a molecule to be responsible for heredity, and the seemingly endless diversity amongst living things. Although this was a perfectly rational conclusion to come to based on the information available at the time, it is a good reminder that what everyone else accepts as right is not to necessarily so. A good jolt of evidence to the contrary is all it takes to shatter currently accepted thinking – that’s what’s so great about science!
“Modern genetical theory assumes that innate differences – that is, differences developing in a uniform environment – are due to different genes. These genes are distinct particles of ultramicroscopic dimensions localised in the chromosomes of the cell nuclei, and as a rule they propagate themselves, or are copied at nuclear division; they are probably proteins of a particular type known as nucleo-proteins.”
Incidentally, another great thing I found in this book was the recurrent use of the word ‘genetical’ – don’t know why that never caught on!?
Anywaysssss, I mainly posted this to share a chapter in the book entitled ‘Eugenics, Negative and Positive’. I know what you’re thinking and don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Far from being putting forward a positive view of Social Darwinism, the chapter is actually a briefly sobering summary of some of the prejudice that has been falsely founded on claims of genetic superiority. I wonder what the author would think if he knew that such ridiculous claims still exist in a time where we have scientific knowledge of the absolutely minuscule genetic differences that actually exist between humans of different ancestral origins?
The chapter is definitely worth a 5 minute read. I have attached a link to a PDF of the chapter below – enjoy!
Link to chapter >>> CHAPTER XXII: EUGENICS, NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE <<< Link to chapter