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Masterminding Nature

Masterminding Nature: The Breeding of Animals, 1750-2010

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Masterminding Nature
    Book Description:

    InMasterminding Nature, Margaret Derry examines the evolution of modern animal breeding from the invention of improved breeding methodologies in eighteenth-century England to the application of molecular genetics in the 1980s and 1990s. A clear and concise introduction to the science and practice of artificial selection, Derry's book puts the history of breeding in its scientific, commercial, and social context.

    Masterminding Natureexplains why animal breeders continued to use eighteenth-century techniques well into the twentieth century, why the chicken industry was the first to use genetics in its breeding programs, and why it was the dairy cattle industry that embraced quantitative genetics and artificial insemination in the 1970s, as well as answering many other questions. Following the story right up to the present, the book concludes with an insightful analysis of today's complex relationships between biology, industry, and ethics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1930-2
    Subjects: History, Biological Sciences, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    “All my notion abouthowspecies change are derived from long-continued study of the works of (& converse with) agriculturalists & horticulturists,” wrote Charles Darwin to Asa Gray, a Harvard University botanist, in 1857.¹ Darwin suggested that the process of breeding domestic animals and plants had been critical to developing his theory regarding the effects of natural selection on evolution. This linkage of practical artificial selection to scientific questions was cemented by Darwin, and would be ongoing from that time. Because artificial selection illustrated that changes in species were possible, it was a natural tool in the study of theories of...

  5. Chapter One Artificial Selection Theory and Livestock Breeding, 1750–1900
    (pp. 13-39)

    Animal breeding, via artificial selection, is an ancient human occupation, dating back to the time of domestication at least fourteen thousand years ago. The continued artificial selection of animals for breeding led not only to marked physical changes from their wild progenitors, but also to distinctive types. Varieties of dogs, cattle, and horses evidently existed as early as four thousand years ago.¹ How much attention was given to the effectiveness of one breeding method over another is not known, but it is likely that most practices were quite haphazard in nature. In many parts of Europe it was difficult to...

  6. Chapter Two Early Developments in Genetics
    (pp. 40-70)

    The advent of Mendelism after 1900 initiated new directions in attitudes to heredity, but added both complexity and confusion to the hereditary science situation as well. Three scholars independently rediscovered Mendel’s 1865 paper on the breeding of peas. Mendel had used the hybridizing inbreeding/crossing method of breeding and concluded much of what had been observed by the earlier hybridizers.¹ In modern terminology Mendel established two laws: when the gametes (or reproductive cells) form, the gene pairs separate (each unit of the pair is either recessive or dominant); and genes are both immutable and act independently (a view that subsequently has...

  7. Chapter Three Practical Breeding via Theoretical Population Genetics
    (pp. 71-93)

    So wrote Bakewell in a 1791 letter, which described how he hoped his Ram Society would protect the intellectual property embedded in the work of a group of sheep breeders. The attempt to control the distribution of animals, via some form of patenting, has an ancient history. By the late 1930s livestock genetics had adopted an approach – namely, inbreeding and crossing for hybrid vigour, which worked well with such business strategies. It provided a natural patent for breeders, and that fact quickly became apparent to men interested in investing in the business of breeding.

    In animals, scientific breeding via...

  8. Chapter Four New Directions: Artificial Insemination Technology and Quantitative Genetics
    (pp. 94-128)

    One of the major developments within the story of artificial selection was the rise of artificial insemination, a technology that allowed for a concentrated focus on the productivity of breeding males in a vastly more comprehensive way than had been possible in earlier times. Of all the species that used artificial insemination (AI) cattle were particularly important. Because of overwhelming dairymen acceptance of AI, and the marginalized use of it in the beef cattle industry (as of 2003 less than 5 per cent of the world’s beef cattle were artificially inseminated, largely as a result of the different structure of...

  9. Chapter Five Molecular Genetics, the Rise of Genomics, and Livestock Breeding
    (pp. 129-159)

    By 1960 agricultural genetics was characterized by two quite distinct theoretical approaches to artificial selection. These had affected practical breeding in different ways: hybridizing dominated the chicken-breeding industry, and selection within true breeding lines shaped the purebred dairy cattle world. Geneticists working in the field of animal breeding tended to divide into one section or the other – demarcated by the species they studied. A specialist in dairy cattle breeding worked within very different parameters compared to a specialist in chicken breeding. All livestock geneticists, however, continued to follow the 1918 infinitesimal model of Fisher; namely, the theoretical concept that...

  10. Chapter Six Biology, Industry Needs, and Morality in Livestock Breeding
    (pp. 160-178)

    Patterns described in this book indicate that technology cannot be separated from the application of principles arising from genetics. While technology has often been described as the poor sister of science, when it comes to approaches to animal breeding in many ways it seems to be the other way around. In sequencing SNPs for the 50K BeadChip, for example, it could be argued that science is the poor sister of technology. Genetics has been increasingly closely linked with technology since the advent of AI, when that technology became a critical partner of quantitative genetics. With the rise of molecular genetics,...

  11. Conclusions
    (pp. 179-192)

    Animal breeding is as old as domestication, but the rise of what might be described as structured, artificial selection methodology is relatively recent. British Thoroughbred horse breeding strategies and culture in the late seventeenth century laid the groundwork for an organized approach to breeding. Developments in the eighteenth century during the Enlightenment expanded on that groundwork. Livestock breeders like Robert Bakewell set out breeding strategies that relied on both inbreeding and progeny testing (particularly in males), in order to create livestock that better matched agricultural needs. The breeders showed no desire to understand why they could change animals in this...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 193-234)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 235-240)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-290)
  15. Index
    (pp. 291-310)