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Molecular biology in the French tradition? Redefining local traditions and disciplinary patterns

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Conclusion

The first part of this paper has shown that the development of regulatory genetics and the lactose operon model stemmed from laboratory cultures rooted in local traditions. A "physiological" culture may be recognized in the Pasteurian context. The institutional continuity provided the basis for a tenuous link between Pasteur, Lwoff, and Monod. My claim is that the "national" value of regulatory and physiological genetics is an artifact produced in the course of the legitimization process accompanying the institutionalisation of the discipline. In the 1960s, the lactose operon model was turned into a "flag-object," a symbol of the new culture. The work done by the Pasteurian group became therefore the most important, if not the only, exemplar of molecular biology in France.

The second part o f the paper described the origins of general patterns that dominated the building of molecular biology in France. The study of the relationships between molecular biologists and biochemists or immunologists revealed the existence of alternatives to the development of operon research, or to the convergence with molecular biology. Both examples uncover specific paths leading to achievements that might be viewed as international trends: the expansion of RNA and translation studies, and the development of cellular immunology. They illustrate two possible patterns of linking local settings and disciplinary traditions: an oligopolistic situation where a few groups or one institution dominate an entire field, and the emergence of "collective" trends through collaboration networks or schools.

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Gaudillière, J. Molecular biology in the French tradition? Redefining local traditions and disciplinary patterns. J Hist Biol 26, 473–498 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01062058

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Keywords

  • Molecular Biology
  • Laboratory Culture
  • Local Setting
  • Collaboration Network
  • Molecular Biologist