Growing weed, producing knowledge: an epistemic history of Arabidopsis thaliana.
History of Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn
Arabidopsis is currently the most popular and well-researched model organism in plant biology. This paper documents this plant's rise to scientific fame by focusing on two interrelated aspects of Arabidopsis research. One is the extent to which the material features of the plant have constrained research directions and enabled scientific achievements. The other is the crucial role played by the international community of Arabidopsis researchers in making it possible to grow, distribute and use plant specimen that embody these material features. I argue that at least part of the explosive development of this research community is due to its successful standardisation and to the subsequent use of Arabidopsis specimen as material models of plants. I conclude that model organisms have a double identity as both samples of nature and artifacts representing nature. It is the resulting ambivalence in their representational value that makes them attractive research tools for biologists.
Vol. 29, Issue 2, pp. 193 - 223
Place of publication