Normal development and experimental embryology: Edmund Beecher Wilson and Amphioxus
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
© 2016 Elsevier. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/. This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Elsevier via the DOI in this record.
Reason for embargo
This paper concerns the concept of normal development, and how it is enacted in experimental procedures. To that end, I use an historical case study to assess the three ways in which normal development is and has been produced, used, and interpreted in the practice of experimental biology. I argue that each of these approaches involves different processes of abstraction, which manage biological variation differently. I then document the way in which Edmund Beecher Wilson, a key contributor to late-nineteenth century experimental embryology, approached the study of normal development and show that his work does not fit any of the three established categories in the taxonomy. On the basis of this new case study, I present a new interpretation of normal development as a methodological norm which operates as a technical condition in various experimental systems. I close by suggesting the questions, and ways of investigating developmental biology, that are opened up by this perspective.
Vol. 57, pp. 44-59