Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 135-154

First online:

Epigenetic landscaping: Waddington's use of cell fate bifurcation diagrams

  • Scott F. GilbertAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Swarthmore College

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


From the 1930s through the 1970s, C. H. Waddington attempted to reunite genetics, embryology, and evolution. One of the means to effect this synthesis was his model of the epigenetic landscape. This image originally recast genetic data in terms of embryological diagrams and was used to show the identity of genes and inducers and to suggest the similarities between embryological and genetic approaches to development. Later, the image became more complex and integrated gene activity and mutations. These revised epigenetic landscapes presented an image of how mutations could alter developmental pathways to yield larger phenotypic changes. These diagrams became less important as the operon became used to model differential gene regulation.

Key Words

Epigenetic landscape synthesis of evolution genetics and development Waddington