Lecture 18 supplement 2

Lecture 18 supplement 2 - PerSPecTIveS S e r i e S o n h i...

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In appreciation of his visionary ideas for genetics, which were formulated in the early years of the twentieth century, Theodor Boveri has been called “the first genetic engineer” 1 . He is primarily remembered for his identification of chromosomes as the site for Mendelian factors, later called genes 2,3 . However, molecular and developmental biologists are finding his results on fertiliza- tion and early embryonic development, and his hypothesis on the genetic causes of cancer (BOX 1) , to be of new relevance today 4–9 . Theodor Boveri’s wife, Marcella O’Grady Boveri, was important as his collaborator for over two decades. She has also recently been rediscovered 9,10 . The finding of another ‘creative couple in the sciences’ illustrates the situation at the turn of the last century, when women in Germany and the United States fought for access to scientific careers 11–14 . This article traces the lives of the Boveris and investigates the main stages of their attempts to understand inheritance and early embry- onic development at a time before and during the establishment of genetics and embryology. Their work was based on cytology combined with experimental manipulation of chromo- somes and cytoplasm during the processes of fertilization and ontogenesis. From the begin- nings of his career, Theodor Boveri belonged to the group of scientists who, following Carl Naegeli, saw the cell nucleus as containing the substances responsible for the determination and inheritance of the characters of the cell 15 . However, the Boveris also investigated the contribution of the cytoplasm to heredity. In their view, heredity included both the transmission of traits to the next generation of individuals and the process of embryonic development from fertilized egg to the differentiated somatic cells of the embryo. Biographies Theodor Boveri: becoming a zoologist. Theodor Boveri was born in the northern Bavarian town of Bamberg, Germany, in 1862. His father was a physician with a passion for botany and music. The young Boveri, as passionate as his parents about arts and music, was destined to become an engineer or architect, to which end he attended the Realgymnasium — a school focusing on sciences and mathematics. In 1881 he enrolled at the University of Munich, Germany, beginning with courses in history, philosophy and classical languages. However, after one term he changed to anatomy, became an assistant to the anatomist Carl von Kupffer and eventually finished his doctoral disserta- tion on nerve fibres under Kupffer’s supervi- sion in 1885. A 7-year scholarship then gave him the freedom to do what he wanted, so he moved to the Zoological Institute in Munich under the directorship of Richard Hertwig. Hertwig and his brother Oscar were famous
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This note was uploaded on 06/05/2011 for the course BIO 200 taught by Professor Thomasebureau during the Fall '07 term at McGill.

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Lecture 18 supplement 2 - PerSPecTIveS S e r i e S o n h i...

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