Science & Education

, Volume 24, Issue 1–2, pp 77–99 | Cite as

How Many Times Can You Be Wrong and Still Be Right? T. H. Morgan, Evolution, Chromosomes and the Origins of Modern Genetics

  • Garland E. AllenEmail author


Science textbooks and classes mostly emphasize what are considered by today’s standards the “right” or “correct” interpretations of particular phenomena or processes. When “incorrect” ideas of the past are mentioned at all, it is simply to point out their errors, with little attention as to why the ideas were put forward in the first place, or ever gained a following. A strong case can be made, however, for presenting contrasting or even what are considered today “wrong” hypotheses as a way of not only emphasizing the dynamic nature of science (which is punctuated throughout by controversies and contrasting views), but also as a way of helping students better understand the details and workings of contemporary views. This article will illustrate these claims by examining the work of embryologist-turned-geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan in the early decades of the twentieth century.


Chromosome Pair Darwinian Natural Selection Mendelian Ratio Chromosome Theory Mendelian Genetic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Gary Borissy and the organizers of the 2010 T. H. Morgan Symposium at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, for the initial invitation to present this talk honoring the centenary of Morgan’s first paper on Drosophila. In preparing our separate talks for that occasion, I had many stimulating discussions with my good friend and colleague Jane Maienschein, who, as always, helped keep me on track. I also want to thank three anonymous reviews for Science and Education for their critical, but very helpful, comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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