Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Practical Things You Can Learn from Studying Science. Lessons from history

A recent article by John Malone and Brian Oliver, "The genomic 'inner fish' and a regulatory enigma in the vertebrates," in the Journal of Biology (an OpenAccess publication, always a good thing) managed to include one of my favorite scientific anecdotes:
Even before the origin of species by descent from a common ancestor was posited, it was realized that groups of animals had related morphologies. Georges Cuvier, the father of comparative anatomy, viewed anatomical structures though the lens of form and function. Similar looking anatomical structures should have similar function, and anatomy could be used diagnostically to group organisms – a theory he termed "the correlation of parts" [1]. A famous story illustrates the idea. One of Cuvier's students dressed as the Devil with horns on his head and hoof-shaped shoes burst into Cuvier's bedroom when he was asleep and said, "I am the Devil. I have come to devour you!" Cuvier woke up and replied, "I doubt whether you can. You have horns and hooves. You eat only plants."
Cuvier thereupon rolled over and went back to sleep.

1 comment:

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