How Political Repression Stifled the Nascent Foundations of Heredity Research before Mendel in Central European Sheep Breeding Societies

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Poczai, P.; Santiago-Blay, J.A.; Sekerák, J.; Szabó, A.T. How Political Repression Stifled the Nascent Foundations of Heredity Research before Mendel in Central European Sheep Breeding Societies. Philosophies 2021, 6, 41.

Title: How Political Repression Stifled the Nascent Foundations of Heredity Research before Mendel in Central European Sheep Breeding Societies
Author: Poczai, Péter; Santiago-Blay, Jorge A.; Sekerák, Jiří; Szabó, Attila T.
Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
Date: 2021-05-19
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/330229
Abstract: The nineteenth century was a time of great economic, social, and political change. The population of a modernizing Europe began demanding more freedom, which in turn propelled the ongoing discussion on the philosophy of nature. This spurred on Central European sheep breeders to debate the deepest secrets of nature: the transmission of traits from one generation to another. Scholarly questions of heredity were profoundly entwined with philosophy and politics when particular awareness of “the genetic laws of nature” claimed natural equality. The realization that the same rules of inheritance may apply to all living beings frightened both the absolutist political power and the divided society of the day. Many were not prepared to separate religious questions from novel natural phenomena. Open-minded breeders put their knowledge into practice right away to create sheep with better wool traits through inbreeding and artificial selection. This was viewed, however, as the artificial modification of nature operating against the cultural and religious norms of the day. Liberal attempts caught the attention of the secret police and, consequently, the aspirations of scholars were suppressed by political will during approximately 1820–1850.


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