Myles W. Jackson

Myles W. Jackson is Albert Gallatin Research Excellence Professor of the History of Science, NYU-Gallatin; Professor of History, Department of History, NYU-FAS; Director of Science and Society, NYU-CAS; Professor of the Division of Medical Ethics, NYU-Langone School of Medicine; and Faculty Affiliate of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy at the New York University School of Law. He is the author of Spectrum of Belief: Joseph von Fraunhofer and the Craft of Precision Optics and Harmonious Triads: Physicists, Musicians, and Instrument Makers in Nineteenth-Century Germany, both published by the MIT Press.

  • The Genealogy of a Gene

    The Genealogy of a Gene

    Patents, HIV/AIDS, and Race

    Myles W. Jackson

    The history of the CCR5 gene as a lens through which to view such issues as intellectual property, Big Pharma, personalized medicine, and race and genomics.

    In The Genealogy of a Gene, Myles Jackson uses the story of the CCR5 gene to investigate the interrelationships among science, technology, and society. Mapping the varied “genealogy” of CCR5—intellectual property, natural selection, Big and Small Pharma, human diversity studies, personalized medicine, ancestry studies, and race and genomics—Jackson links a myriad of diverse topics. The history of CCR5 from the 1990s to the present offers a vivid illustration of how intellectual property law has changed the conduct and content of scientific knowledge, and the social, political, and ethical implications of such a transformation.

    The CCR5 gene began as a small sequence of DNA, became a patented product of a corporation, and then, when it was found to be an AIDS virus co-receptor with a key role in the immune system, it became part of the biomedical research world—and a potential moneymaker for the pharmaceutical industry. When it was further discovered that a mutation of the gene found in certain populations conferred near-immunity to the AIDS virus, questions about race and genetics arose. Jackson describes these developments in the context of larger issues, including the rise of “biocapitalism,” the patentability of products of nature, the difference between U.S. and European patenting approaches, and the relevance of race and ethnicity to medical research.

    • Hardcover $40.00 £32.00
    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00
  • Harmonious Triads

    Harmonious Triads

    Physicists, Musicians, and Instrument Makers in Nineteenth-Century Germany

    Myles W. Jackson

    Historically, music was long classified as both art and science. Aspects of music—from the mathematics of tuning to the music of the celestial spheres—were primarily studied as science until the seventeenth century. In the nineteenth century, although scientists were less interested in the music of the spheres than the natural philosophers of earlier centuries, they remained committed to understanding the world of performing musicians and their instruments. In Harmonious Triads, Myles Jackson analyzes the relationship of physicists, musicians, and instrument makers in nineteenth-century Germany. Musical instruments provided physicists with experimental systems, and physicists' research led directly to improvements in musical-instrument manufacture and assisted musicians in their performances. Music also provided scientists with a cultural resource, which forged acquaintances and future collaborations. Jackson discusses experiments in acoustical vibrations that led to the invention of musical instruments and describes work with adiabatic phenomena that resulted in the improvement of the reed pipe, used by organ builders. He examines the collaborations of physicists and mechanicians aimed at standardizing beat and pitch and considers debates stirred by the standardization of aesthetic qualities. He describes the importance for scientists of choral societies as a vehicle for social life and cultural unity. Finally, he discusses a subject that occupied both physicists and musicians of the era: Could physicists, using the universal principles of mechanics, explain musical skill? Was the virtuosity of a Paganini or a Liszt somehow quantifiable? Jackson's historical consideration of questions at the intersection of music and physics shows us how each discipline helped shape the other.

    • Hardcover $40.00 £32.00
    • Paperback $30.00 £25.00
  • Spectrum of Belief

    Spectrum of Belief

    Joseph von Fraunhofer and the Craft of Precision Optics

    Myles W. Jackson

    In the nineteenth century, scientific practice underwent a dramatic transformation from personal endeavor to business enterprise. In Spectrum of Belief, Myles Jackson explores this transformation through a sociocultural history of the rise of precision optics in Germany. He uses the career of the optician Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787-1826) to probe the relationship between science and society, and between artisans and experimental natural philosophers, during this important transition.

    Fraunhofer came from a long line of glassmakers. Orphaned at age eleven, the young apprentice moved in with his master, the court decorative glass cutter. At age nineteen, bored with his work and angered by his master's refusal to allow him to study optical theory, Fraunhofer took a position at the Optical Institute assisting in the manufacture of achromatic lenses. Within ten years he was producing the world's finest achromatic lenses and prisms.

    Housed in an old Benedictine monastery, Fraunhofer's laboratory mirrored the labor of the monks. Because of his secrecy (after his death, even those who had worked most closely with him could not achieve his success), British experimental natural philosophers were unable to reproduce his work. This secrecy, while guaranteeing his institute's monopoly, thwarted Fraunhofer's attempts to gain credibility within the scientific community, which looked down on artisanal work and its clandestine practices as an affront. The response to the ensuing rise of German optical technology sheds light on crucial social, economic, and political issues of the period, such as mechanization, patent law reform, the role of skills in both physics and society, the rise of Mechanics' Institutes, and scientific patronage. After his death, Fraunhofer's example was used in the newly united Germany to argue for the merging of scientific research and technological innovation with industrial and state support.

    • Hardcover $40.00 £32.00
    • Paperback $30.00 £25.00