A 'Fantastical' Experiment: Motivations, Practice, and Conflict in the History of Nuclear Transplantation.

TitleA 'Fantastical' Experiment: Motivations, Practice, and Conflict in the History of Nuclear Transplantation.
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsCrowe, Nathan
UniversityUniversity of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Thesis TypephdPhD

In 1952, Robert Briggs and Thomas King published a paper announcing the development of a new technique, nuclear transplantation, which could have profound consequences in the study of developmental biology. Forty-four years later, in 1996, researchers in Scotland used a variation of nuclear transplantation to produce a cloned sheep. The sheep was named Dolly and became a cultural, scientific, and controversial symbol for biology's successes and promises. Since then, the historical relevance of nuclear transplantation has always been its connection to the successful cloning of Dolly. I argue in this dissertation, however, that the history of nuclear transplantation before Dolly offers valuable insights into the history of developmental biology, genetics, cancer research, and bioethics. As essentially a biography of the technique, my narrative weaves together these often distinct historiographical traditions, showing the intricate institutional and intellectual connections between them. Though the first successful nuclear transplantation in vertebrates occurred in the early 1950s, this dissertation traces back the relevant historical origins to the early 1920s with the development of the cancer research center in which Briggs and his colleagues eventually worked out nuclear transplantation. In subsequent chapters this dissertation follows the development of the technique and the successes and controversies that it encountered in the 1950s related to the work of John Gurdon. From there, I show how nuclear transplantation moved from strictly a laboratory discussion to a cultural phenomenon related to human cloning in the 1960s when Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg helped co-opt nuclear transplantation to fuel democratic discussion over the direction of biological research.