Scribner Seminar Program
Genes and Generation
Instructor(s): Bernard Possidente, Biology
Aristotle argued that females contribute the "raw material" for an offspring and males contribute a force that shapes it into an organism. Beginning with this ancient Greek account of generation, students study explanations of the generation of organisms from historical and scientific perspectives. We compare Aristotle's concept of generation to later scientific theories typical of the 17th to 19th centuries, including spontaneous generation, vitalism, epigenesis and the idea that germ cells contain a tiny version of the organism that develops into the adult. We follow the demise of some of these theories and the transformation of others into the modern concepts of genes and developmental biology, and end with a discussion of current perspectives on the role of genes in the development of organisms.