Generations: Reproduction, Heredity, and Epigenetics

What do old books have to do with cutting-edge science?  More than you might think.

Coste0044This year, the annual Life Sciences and Society Symposium is considering a relatively new scientific field: epigenetics.  “Epigenetics refers to the study of traits that are heritable but not caused by changes in the DNA sequence,” writes Dr. Karthik Panchanathan, an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Missouri.  “In some cases, events that happen during an individual’s life can sometimes result in epigenetic changes that are subsequently heritable. This is a form of Lamarckian inheritance, the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring.”

This year’s Life Sciences and Society Symposium considers the implications of epigenetics for human health and behavior.  Speakers will discuss what epigenetics means, how the environment affects genetic expression, and how the fast-changing field of epigenetics is transforming medicine and society.  See a lineup of speakers and register for the symposium on the Life Sciences and Society program website.

Special Collections is participating in the symposium with an exhibition of rare books and an opening lecture to kick off the symposium week. Although the scientific study of epigenetics dates only to the middle of the twentieth century, scientists have puzzled over related questions of heredity and development for hundreds of years.  Does it matter whether you inherit a trait from your mother or father?  How do your earliest stages of development influence the rest of your life?  Which characteristics are inborn, and which are learned?  These are questions being asked by epigenetics researchers today, and they are the questions we consider in a historical sense in the exhibition, through an in-depth look at topics such as early theories of generation, maternal imagination, child development, and original sin.

GenesCultureEvolution-gateway-bDr. Panchanathan will open the exhibit with a lecture entitled “Genes, Culture and Evolution.” Humans are unique among animals in the degree to which adaptive behavior is shaped by both genes and culture. Cultural transmission is a form of Lamarckian inheritance: individuals pass on cultural traits which they learned during their lifetime to their offspring. In this talk, Dr. Panchanathan will discuss how anthropologists think about and model cultural evolution. In particular, Dr. Panchanathan will discuss how and why natural selection on genes resulted in the human capacity for culture; how cultural evolution is similar to and different from genetic evolution; and how cultural processes have shaped our genes, so-called gene-culture co-evolution.

Dr. Panchanathan’s presentation is on Monday, March 9, at 1:00 PM in the Government Documents area in Ellis Library.  Generations: Reproduction, Heredity, and Epigenetics will be on display in the Ellis Library Colonnade March 5-30, 2015.

generations-poster

 

 

Posted in Special Collections

Polybius and the Pre-digital Brain

Today we are featuring a manuscript draft made by Friedrich Otto Hultsch as he was editing Polybius’s Historiae. Hultsch (1833-1906) was a philologist of classical languages who published numerous critical editions throughout his career. He made the works of ancient mathematicians available to the scholarly world for the first time. He also wrote a monograph on ancient metrology that focused on Babylonian and Egyptian systems of weights and measures.

Hultsch-stackPolybius was a Greek historian who wrote in the second century B.C.E. His work was lost in the west until the fifteenth century. His work has continued to be of interest ever since as a witness of of Hellenistic Greek history and political theory and of the koine dialect of Greek.

Hultschdouble
To make the draft, Hultsch unbound the signatures of the previous edition of made by Emmanuel Bekker in 1844. He interleaved his own research notes, which included text from manuscripts not previously consulted. The draft is a monument to the resources of the human brain before computers.

Hultsch

The published edition came out in 1867 and is available in the open stacks. We are still researching the provenance of the draft. Perhaps one of his students or descendants immigrated to the United States and had some connection with the University of Missouri.

 

HultschfragmentaHultschnote

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Special Collections

Aldus Manutius Romanus, 1449-1515

We do not know the exact place and time of Aldus’s birth. Most scholars agree that he was born around 1449 near Rome, and died on February 6, 1515, apparently after a long illness in Venice.

1502-Ovid-end

At about 1501 Aldus adopted his famous printer’s device of dolphin and anchor. According to the popular legend, Cardinal Pietro Bembo gave Aldus a denarius of Vespasian, on the reverse of which was the image of a dolphin entwined with the anchor.

Aldus’s motto σπεῦδε βραδέως (make haste slowly), or festina lente in Latin, is attributed to Augustus by Suetonius.

“The Prince of Humanists”, Erasmus, made a cheeky compliment to the “Prince of Printers” in his Adages: “Aldus, making haste slowly, has acquired as much gold as he has reputation, and richly deserves both.” The more delicate Bembo thought that the image was to symbolize Aldus’s aim to “produce much by slow action”.

It would became the most famous printer’s device of Aldus’s time, pirated by the contemporary publishers and just crooked printers, coveted by book collectors of all times.  Demand for Aldine texts was high. Aldus once remarked that the pace of work in his shop was such that “with both hands occupied and surrounded by pressmen who are clamorous for work, there is scarcely even time to blow my nose.”

Between 1494 and 1515 he produced some 134 editions: 68 in Latin, 58 in Greek, and 8 in Italian. A typical edition ran to 1000 to 2000 copies.

Aldus Manutius Romanus, 1449-1515 will be on exhibit in the Ellis Library Colonnade through February 2015.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Exhibits
Archives

Special Collections and Rare Books


Find Us on Facebook