Event Detail

Mon Sep 17, 2007
279 Dwinelle, 4–6 PM
History of Science and Technology Colloquium
Everett Mendelsohn (History of Science, Harvard University)
The Historian and the Clones

Dolly, the cloned sheep became an icon of the triumphs of science but also a realization of the dreams/nightmares of the authors of science fiction and a challenge to the norms of human reproduction. An analysis of the pre-Dolly scientific literature shows attempts at embryo manipulation which were judged at the time to demonstrate the impossiblity of reversing differentiation. The science fiction literature had both damned and praised the possibility of cloning humans. Bioethicists and prominent biologists had joined in decrying the cloning efforts. The very public announcement of Dolly’s birth in February, 1997 was greeted by a media frenzy and immediate attempts at legal restraints of moving from sheep to humans. At the same time on the margins some claimed that human cloning efforts were already underway. As a NYTimes op ed put it: “Never, Maybe, Why Not?” Harvard contitutional lawyer Lawrence Tribe put in December ’97 “Second Thoughts on Cloning” referring to the individual rights of a single woman… What role for the historian reflecting on the past, very aware of the present contentious debates, and timidly peering into the near future?