Staffan Müller-Wille

Staffan Müller-Wille is Associate Professor in History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences at the University of Exeter, U.K., and the coeditor of Heredity Produced (MIT Press).

  • Heredity Explored

    Heredity Explored

    Between Public Domain and Experimental Science, 1850–1930

    Staffan Müller-Wille and Christina Brandt

    Investigations of how the understanding of heredity developed in scientific, medical, agro-industrial, and political contexts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    This book examines the wide range of scientific and social arenas in which the concept of inheritance gained relevance in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although genetics emerged as a scientific discipline during this period, the idea of inheritance also played a role in a variety of medical, agricultural, industrial, and political contexts.

    The book, which follows an earlier collection, Heredity Produced (covering the period 1500 to 1870), addresses heredity in national debates over identity, kinship, and reproduction; biopolitical conceptions of heredity, degeneration, and gender; agro-industrial contexts for newly emerging genetic rationality; heredity and medical research; and the genealogical constructs and experimental systems of genetics that turned heredity into a representable and manipulable object. Taken together, the essays in Heredity Explored show that a history of heredity includes much more than the history of genetics, and that knowledge of heredity was always more than the knowledge formulated as Mendelism. It was the broader public discourse of heredity in all its contexts that made modern genetics possible.

    ContributorsCaroline Arni, Christophe Bonneuil, Christina Brandt, Luis Campos, Jean-Paul Gaudillière, Bernd Gausemeier, Jean Gayon, Veronika Lipphardt, Ilana Löwy, J. Andrew Mendelsohn, Staffan Müller-Wille, Diane B. Paul, Theodore M. Porter, Alain Pottage, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Marsha L. Richmond, Helga Satzinger, Judy Johns Schloegel, Alexander von Schwerin, Hamish G. Spencer, Ulrike Vedder

    • Hardcover $50.00
  • Heredity Produced

    Heredity Produced

    At the Crossroads of Biology, Politics, and Culture, 1500-1870

    Staffan Müller-Wille and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger

    The cultural history of heredity: scholars from a range of disciplines discuss the evolution of the concept of heredity, from the Early Modern understanding of the act of "generation" to its later nineteenth-century definition as the transmission of characteristics across generations.

    Until the middle of the eighteenth century, the biological makeup of an organism was ascribed to an individual instance of "generation"—involving conception, pregnancy, embryonic development, parturition, lactation, and even astral influences and maternal mood—rather than the biological transmission of traits and characteristics. Discussions of heredity and inheritance took place largely in the legal and political sphere. In Heredity Produced, scholars from a broad range of disciplines explore the development of the concept of heredity from the early modern period to the era of Darwin and Mendel.

    The contributors examine the evolution of the concept in disparate cultural realms—including law, medicine, and natural history—and show that it did not coalesce into a more general understanding of heredity until the mid-nineteenth century. They consider inheritance and kinship in a legal context; the classification of certain diseases as hereditary; the study of botany; animal and plant breeding and hybridization for desirable characteristics; theories of generation and evolution; and anthropology and its study of physical differences among humans, particularly skin color. The editors argue that only when people, animals, and plants became more mobile—and were separated from their natural habitats through exploration, colonialism, and other causes—could scientists distinguish between inherited and environmentally induced traits and develop a coherent theory of heredity.

    ContributorsDavid Sabean, Silvia De Renzi, Ulrike Vedder, Carlos López Beltrán, Phillip K. Wilson, Laure Cartron, Staffan Müller-Wille, Marc J. Ratcliff, Roger Wood, Mary Terrall, Peter McLaughlin, François Duchesneau, Ohad Parnes, Renato Mazzolini, Paul White, Nicolas Pethes, Stefan Willer, Helmuth Müller-Sievers

    • Hardcover $55.00