, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 565-605
Date: 27 Jul 2006

“The ‘Domestication’ of Heredity: The Familial Organization of Geneticists at Cambridge University, 1895–1910”


In the early years of Mendelism, 1900–1910, William Bateson established a productive research group consisting of women and men studying biology at Cambridge. The empirical evidence they provided through investigating the patterns of hereditary in many different species helped confirm the validity of the Mendelian laws of heredity. What has not previously been well recognized is that owing to the lack of sufficient institutional support, the group primarily relied on domestic resources to carry out their work. Members of the group formed a kind of extended family unit, centered on the Batesons’ home in Grantchester and the grounds of Newnham College. This case illustrates the continuing role that domestic environments played in supporting scientific research in the early 20th century.