History and Philosophy of Science
Arizona State University
2012 to 2013
Dissertation Research Fellow
Degeneration in Miniature: Cell Death and Aging Research in the Twentieth Century
Abstract: Once perceived as unimportant occurrence in living organisms, cell degeneration has been reconfigured as an important biological phenomenon in development, aging, health, and diseases since the mid-twentieth century. Studies of cell death and aging have gone through stages of morphological description, functional interpretation, speculation about mechanism, and eventual expanded into an influential and multivalent research field in the era of molecular biology in the 1990s. This project examines and compares Viktor Hamburger’s, Leonard Hayflick’s, Robin Holliday’s, and H. Robert Horvitz’s studies to trace the trajectory of modern cell degeneration research. These cases capture representative research styles, experimental materials, and socio-cultural priorities of biological science in different decades of the twentieth century. Together, they illuminate how scientific, material, and historical contexts conditioned our current knowledge and research programs about cell degeneration. Such knowledge, in turn, has begun to permeate into how we conceive life, death and disease. Read Lijing's report on her PACHS-sponsored research here.