Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 63–105 | Cite as

Cancer, Conflict, and the Development of Nuclear Transplantation Techniques

  • Nathan CroweEmail author


The technique of nuclear transplantation – popularly known as cloning – has been integrated into several different histories of twentieth century biology. Historians and science scholars have situated nuclear transplantation within narratives of scientific practice, biotechnology, bioethics, biomedicine, and changing views of life. However, nuclear transplantation has never been the focus of analysis. In this article, I examine the development of nuclear transplantation techniques, focusing on the people, motivations, and institutions associated with the first successful nuclear transfer in metazoans in 1952. The conflict between embryologists and geneticists over the mechanisms of differentiation motivated Robert Briggs to pursue nuclear transplantation experiments as a way to resolve the debate. Briggs worked at the Lankenau Hospital Research Institute, a research facility devoted to the study of cancer. The goal of understanding cancer would play a role in the development of the technique, and the story of nuclear transplantation sheds light on the role that biomedical contexts play in biological research in the second half of the twentieth century.


Nuclear transplantation Nuclear transfer Cloning Differentiation Embryology Cancer research 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Life Science C Wing, Center for Biology and SocietyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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