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Fishing for Genes: How the Largest Gene Family in the Mammalian Genome was Found (and Why Idiosyncrasy in Exploration Matters)

Barwich, Ann-Sophie (2021) Fishing for Genes: How the Largest Gene Family in the Mammalian Genome was Found (and Why Idiosyncrasy in Exploration Matters). Perspectives on Science, 29 (4).

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Abstract

Abstract
In 1991, Linda Buck and Richard Axel identified the multigene family expressing odor receptors. Their discovery transformed research on olfaction overnight, and Buck and Axel were awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Behind this success lies another, less visible study about the methodological ingenuity of Buck. This hidden tale holds the key to answering a fundamental question in discovery analysis: What makes specific discovery tools fit their tasks? Why do some strategies turn out to be more fruitful than others? The fit of a method with an experimental system often establishes the success of a discovery. However, the underlying reasoning of discovery is hard to codify. These difficulties point toward an element of discovery analysis routinely sidelined as a mere biographical element in the philosophical analysis of science: the individual discoverer’s role. I argue that the individual researcher is not a replaceable epistemic element in discovery analysis. This article draws on contemporary oral history, including interviews with Buck and other actors key to developments in late 1980s olfaction.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Barwich, Ann-Sophieabarwich@iu.edu
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Molecular Neuroscience
General Issues > Technology
Depositing User: Dr. Ann-Sophie Barwich
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2021 04:46
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2021 04:46
Item ID: 19640
Journal or Publication Title: Perspectives on Science
Official URL: https://direct.mit.edu/posc/article/29/4/359/10706...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1162/posc_a_00375
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Molecular Neuroscience
General Issues > Technology
Date: 1 August 2021
Volume: 29
Number: 4
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19640

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