Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 207-219

First online:

Co-opting Colleagues: Appropriating Dobzhansky's 1936 Lectures at Columbia

  • Joe CainAffiliated withDepartment of Science and Technology Studies, University College London

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This paper clarifies the chronology surroundingthe population geneticist TheodosiusDobzhansky's 1937 book, Genetics and theOrigin of Species. Most historians assume (a)Dobzhansky's book began as a series of `Jesuplectures,' sponsored by the Department ofZoology at Columbia University in 1936, and (b)before these lectures were given, Dobzhanskyknew he would produce a volume for the ColumbiaBiological Series (CBS). Archival evidenceforces a rejection of both assumptions.Dobzhansky's 1936 Columbia lectures were notJesup lectures. The book he intended to writefrom his lectures began as a stand-alone textin evolutionary genetics; the CBS had beendefunct since 1910. In May 1937 – sevenmonths after Dobzhansky's Columbia lectures –Leslie Dunn lobbied Columbia University torevive the CBS and the Jesup lecture series. Hethen quietly back dated, naming Dobzhansky aJesup lecturer and co-opting his bookmanuscript as the first volume in the revivedCBS. A detailed chronology of this 1936–1937period is provided. This relocates the CBS andJesup revivals within the narrow context ofzoology at Columbia University. These helpedDunn and colleagues define cutting edges anddefine themselves as managers and promoters ofthose edges.

boundary objects evolutionary synthesis Columbia Biological Series Genetics and the Origin of Species Jesup lectures Leslie Clarence Dunn Milislav Demerec Theodosius Dobzhansky