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From Monsters to Medicine: A Historical Analysis of Changes in the Field of Teratology Over the Twentieth Century

Description

This project focuses on the history of how teratogens, or agents which have the potential to cause birth defects, have been understood and tested for teratogenic potential in the US

This project focuses on the history of how teratogens, or agents which have the potential to cause birth defects, have been understood and tested for teratogenic potential in the US over the twentieth century. Prior to this time, teratogen studies were primarily concerned with cataloguing defects rather than exploring possible causes. At the turn of the twentieth century, experimental teratogen studies with the aim of elucidating mechanisms commenced. However, these early studies did not aim to discover human pregnancy outcomes and ways to prevent them, but simply focused on the results of exposing pregnant mammals to various physical and chemical insults. My project documents the change in understanding of teratogens over the twentieth century, the advancement of testing methods, and the causes of these advancements. Through the Embryo Project at Arizona State University (embryo.asu.edu), a digital encyclopedia for topics related to embryology, development, and reproductive medicine, I wrote ten encyclopedic articles that focused on chemical mechanisms of various teratogens, testing limitations in animal models, and legal and regulatory responses to well-known teratogens. As an extension of my previous work, this project bridges the current gap in research and focuses on contextualizing major events in the field of teratology to determine how these events led to various shifts in the understanding of birth defects and their causes, and how those conceptual shifts led to the creation of teratological testing guidelines. Results show that throughout the twentieth century, there are four distinct shifts in the understanding of teratogens: the first being 1900-1945, the second being 1946-1960, the third being 1961-1980, and the fourth being 1981-2000.

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Date Created
  • 2014-05

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Cultures of collection in late nineteenth century American natural history

Description

Natural history is, and was, dependent upon the collection of specimens. In the nineteenth century, American naturalists and institutions of natural history cultivated and maintained extensive collection networks comprised of

Natural history is, and was, dependent upon the collection of specimens. In the nineteenth century, American naturalists and institutions of natural history cultivated and maintained extensive collection networks comprised of numerous collectors that provided objects of natural history for study. Effective networks were collaborative in nature, with naturalists such as Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian trading their time and expertise for specimens. The incorporation of Darwinian and Neo-Lamarckian evolutionary theory into natural history in the middle of the century led to dramatic changes in the relationship between naturalists and collectors, as naturalists sought to reconcile their observations within the new evolutionary context. This dissertation uses the careers of collectors Robert Kennicott, Frank Stephens, Edward W. Nelson, E.A. Goldman, and Edmund Heller as case studies in order to evaluate how the changes in the theoretical framework of late nineteenth century natural history led to advances in field practice by assessing how naturalists trained their collectors to meet new demands within the field. Research focused on the correspondence between naturalists and collectors, along with the field notes and applicable publications by collectors. I argue that the changes in natural history necessitated naturalists training their collectors in the basics of biogeography - the study of geographic distribution of organisms, and systematics - the study of the diversity of life - leading to a collaborative relationship in which collectors played an active role in the formation of new biological knowledge. The project concludes that the changes in natural history with regard to theory and practice gradually necessitated a more professional cadre of collectors. Collectors became active agents in the formation of biological knowledge, and instrumental in the formation of a truly systematic natural history. As a result, collectors became de facto field naturalists, the forerunners of the field biologists that dominated the practice of natural history in the early and middle twentieth century.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2011

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Using a computational approach to study the history of systems biology: from systems to biology, 1992-2013

Description

Systems biology studies complex biological systems. It is an interdisciplinary field, with biologists working with non-biologists such as computer scientists, engineers, chemists, and mathematicians to address research problems applying systems’

Systems biology studies complex biological systems. It is an interdisciplinary field, with biologists working with non-biologists such as computer scientists, engineers, chemists, and mathematicians to address research problems applying systems’ perspectives. How these different researchers and their disciplines differently contributed to the advancement of this field over time is a question worth examining. Did systems biology become a systems-oriented science or a biology-oriented science from 1992 to 2013?

This project utilized computational tools to analyze large data sets and interpreted the results from historical and philosophical perspectives. Tools deployed were derived from scientometrics, corpus linguistics, text-based analysis, network analysis, and GIS analysis to analyze more than 9000 articles (metadata and text) on systems biology. The application of these tools to a HPS project represents a novel approach.

The dissertation shows that systems biology has transitioned from a more mathematical, computational, and engineering-oriented discipline focusing on modeling to a more biology-oriented discipline that uses modeling as a means to address real biological problems. Also, the results show that bioengineering and medical research has increased within systems biology. This is reflected in the increase of the centrality of biology-related concepts such as cancer, over time. The dissertation also compares the development of systems biology in China with some other parts of the world, and reveals regional differences, such as a unique trajectory of systems biology in China related to a focus on traditional Chinese medicine.

This dissertation adds to the historiography of modern biology where few studies have focused on systems biology compared with the history of molecular biology and evolutionary biology.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Leo Kanner and the psychobiology of autism

Description

Leo Kanner first described autism in his 1943 article in Nervous Child titled "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact". Throughout, he describes the eleven children with autism in exacting detail. In

Leo Kanner first described autism in his 1943 article in Nervous Child titled "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact". Throughout, he describes the eleven children with autism in exacting detail. In the closing paragraphs, the parents of autistic children are described as emotionally cold. Yet, he concludes that the condition as he described it was innate. Since its publication, his observations about parents have been a source of controversy surrounding the original definition of autism.

Thus far, histories about autism have pointed to descriptions of parents of autistic children with the claim that Kanner abstained from assigning them causal significance. Understanding the theoretical context in which Kanner's practice was embedded is essential to sorting out how he could have held such seemingly contrary views simultaneously.

This thesis illustrates that Kanner held an explicitly descriptive frame of reference toward his eleven child patients, their parents, and autism. Adolf Meyer, his mentor at Johns Hopkins, trained him to make detailed life-charts under a clinical framework called psychobiology. By understanding that Kanner was a psychobiologist by training, I revisit the original definition of autism as a category of mental disorder and restate its terms. This history illuminates the theoretical context of autism's discovery and has important implications for the first definition of autism amidst shifting theories of childhood mental disorders and the place of the natural sciences in defining them.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Three perspectives on multilevel selection: an experimental, historical, and synthetic analysis of group-level selection

Description

During the 1960s, the long-standing idea that traits or behaviors could be

explained by natural selection acting on traits that persisted "for the good of the group" prompted a series of

During the 1960s, the long-standing idea that traits or behaviors could be

explained by natural selection acting on traits that persisted "for the good of the group" prompted a series of debates about group-level selection and the effectiveness with which natural selection could act at or across multiple levels of biological organization. For some this topic remains contentious, while others consider the debate settled, even while disagreeing about when and how resolution occurred, raising the question: "Why have these debates continued?"

Here I explore the biology, history, and philosophy of the possibility of natural selection operating at levels of biological organization other than the organism by focusing on debates about group-level selection that have occurred since the 1960s. In particular, I use experimental, historical, and synthetic methods to review how the debates have changed, and whether different uses of the same words and concepts can lead to different interpretations of the same experimental data.

I begin with the results of a group-selection experiment I conducted using the parasitoid wasp Nasonia, and discuss how the interpretation depends on how one conceives of and defines a "group." Then I review the history of the group selection controversy and argue that this history is best interpreted as multiple, interrelated debates rather than a single continuous debate. Furthermore, I show how the aspects of these debates that have changed the most are related to theoretical content and empirical data, while disputes related to methods remain largely unchanged. Synthesizing this material, I distinguish four different "approaches" to the study of multilevel selection based on the questions and methods used by researchers, and I use the results of the Nasonia experiment to discuss how each approach can lead to different interpretations of the same experimental data. I argue that this realization can help to explain why debates about group and multilevel selection have persisted for nearly sixty years. Finally, the conclusions of this dissertation apply beyond evolutionary biology by providing an illustration of how key concepts can change over time, and how failing to appreciate this fact can lead to ongoing controversy within a scientific field.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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A Quadruple-Based Text Analysis System for History and Philosophy of Science

Description

Computational tools in the digital humanities often either work on the macro-scale, enabling researchers to analyze huge amounts of data, or on the micro-scale, supporting scholars in the interpretation and

Computational tools in the digital humanities often either work on the macro-scale, enabling researchers to analyze huge amounts of data, or on the micro-scale, supporting scholars in the interpretation and analysis of individual documents. The proposed research system that was developed in the context of this dissertation ("Quadriga System") works to bridge these two extremes by offering tools to support close reading and interpretation of texts, while at the same time providing a means for collaboration and data collection that could lead to analyses based on big datasets. In the field of history of science, researchers usually use unstructured data such as texts or images. To computationally analyze such data, it first has to be transformed into a machine-understandable format. The Quadriga System is based on the idea to represent texts as graphs of contextualized triples (or quadruples). Those graphs (or networks) can then be mathematically analyzed and visualized. This dissertation describes two projects that use the Quadriga System for the analysis and exploration of texts and the creation of social networks. Furthermore, a model for digital humanities education is proposed that brings together students from the humanities and computer science in order to develop user-oriented, innovative tools, methods, and infrastructures.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Degeneration in miniature: history of cell death and aging research in the twentieth century

Description

Once perceived as an unimportant occurrence in living organisms, cell degeneration was reconfigured as an important biological phenomenon in development, aging, health, and diseases in the twentieth century. This dissertation

Once perceived as an unimportant occurrence in living organisms, cell degeneration was reconfigured as an important biological phenomenon in development, aging, health, and diseases in the twentieth century. This dissertation tells a twentieth-century history of scientific investigations on cell degeneration, including cell death and aging. By describing four central developments in cell degeneration research with the four major chapters, I trace the emergence of the degenerating cell as a scientific object, describe the generations of a variety of concepts, interpretations and usages associated with cell death and aging, and analyze the transforming influences of the rising cell degeneration research. Particularly, the four chapters show how the changing scientific practices about cellular life in embryology, cell culture, aging research, and molecular biology of Caenorhabditis elegans shaped the interpretations about cell degeneration in the twentieth-century as life-shaping, limit-setting, complex, yet regulated. These events created and consolidated important concepts in life sciences such as programmed cell death, the Hayflick limit, apoptosis, and death genes. These cases also transformed the material and epistemic practices about the end of cellular life subsequently and led to the formations of new research communities. The four cases together show the ways cell degeneration became a shared subject between molecular cell biology, developmental biology, gerontology, oncology, and pathology of degenerative diseases. These practices and perspectives created a special kind of interconnectivity between different fields and led to a level of interdisciplinarity within cell degeneration research by the early 1990s.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013