Sex cells : gender and the language of bacterial genetics
Bivins, Roberta E.. (2000) Sex cells : gender and the language of bacterial genetics. Journal of the History of Biology, Vol.33 (No.1). pp. 113-139. ISSN 0022-5010Full text not available from this repository.
Official URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4331566
Between 1946 and 1960, a new phenomenon emerged in the field of bacteriology. "Bacterial sex," as it was called, revolutionized the study of genetics, largely by making available a whole new class of cheap, fast-growing, and easily manipulated organisms. But what was "bacterial sex?" How could single-celled organisms have "sex" or even be sexually differentiated? The technical language used in the scientific press - the public and inalienable face of 20th century science - to describe this apparently neuter organism was explicit" the cells "copulated," had "intimate contact," "conjugal unions," and engaged in "menage a trois" relationships. And yet, to describe bacteria as sexually reproducing organisms, the definition of sex itself had to change. Despite manifold contradictions and the availability of alternative language, the notion of sexually active (even promiscuous) single-celled organisms has persisted, even into contemporary textbooks on cell biology and genetics. In this paper I examine the ways in which bacteria were brought into the genetic fold, sexualized, and given gender; I also consider the issues underlying the durability of "bacterial sex."
|Item Type:||Journal Article|
|Subjects:||Q Science > QH Natural history > QH426 Genetics|
|Divisions:||Faculty of Arts > History|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Bacterial genetics, Sex (Biology), Conjugation (Biology), Genetics -- Terminology, Bacteriology -- History -- 20th century|
|Journal or Publication Title:||Journal of the History of Biology|
|Page Range:||pp. 113-139|
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