Culturally-significant texts – Across genres, across the ages



Germ Theory and its Application to Medicine and Surgery

Germ Theory and its Application to Medicine and Surgery
Louis Pasteur

Fermentation is a biological process carried out by micro-organisms. And that little discovery changed the world. ‘Pasteurized’ as in milk, the existence of vaccines, home-brewing – they all owe a whole lot to Louis Pasteur who laid the groundwork for microbiology and biochemistry and gave us some of the most basic foundations of modern scientific knowledge. All over the world, universities, hospitals and city streets are named for him, a man known as one of the greatest benefactors of the contemporary world. Continue reading “Germ Theory and its Application to Medicine and Surgery”


First Principles

First Principles
Herbert Spencer

In London’s Highgate Cemetary, the tombstone of Karl Marx looks out over another slab of rock, this one marking the interred remains of Herbert Spencer – at least as well-known and intellectually significant in in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, but largely forgotten shortly thereafter but for this simple phrase, “survival of the fittest”. Yup. That’s Spencer. Sociologist, biologist, philosopher, political theorist, radical democrat-turned-conservative, and the guy who planned to lay out for all the world to see a universal science/ philosophy in which the progressive force of evolution explained not only biological development but psychology, social order, and political life. Not enough? Not just evolutionary process but a rule of universal natural law would explain just about everything, once it was identified and explained. And Spencer figured he was the man to do it.

Continue reading “First Principles”

Experiments on Plant Hybridization

Experiments on Plant Hybridization
Gregor Mendel

Gregor Mendel, Austrian scientist and monk, is recognized as one of the most significant thinkers in the area of plant biology and the father of the science of genetics. After years of detailed study involving the plants in his monastery’s gardens – and some 29,000 pea plants in particular – Mendel discovered the ways that dominant and recessive genes operate to produce variations in species.

Mendel’s primary area of interest was in fact meteorology, and his theories regarding plant hybrids were widely criticized in his day and then, for some decades, largely ignored. Rediscovered in the early twentieth century, however, his work on hybridization combined with Darwin’s theory of natural selection to provide the very basis for much of what we now know about  heredity and genetic science. His work produced two distinct but related laws of science, together referred to as Medel’s Laws of Inheritance: the Law of Segregation, which outlines the existence of dominant and recessive genes and the ways that interact in the development of sex cells, and the Law of Independent Assortment, which states that traits are inherited independently of one another – i.e. though both inherited, the colour of one’s eyes and the size of one’s feet bear no relation to one another.

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