Somatic hybridization is the particle collider of the biological world: where plant cells stripped of their cell wall are fused to create interspecific crosses containing a huge range of genetic information. This paper charts the origins of somatic hybridization and its rise and fall as a plant breeding technique. During the 1960s and 1970s, the creation of somatic hybrids through cell fusion promised a new era of crop improvement. Yet the promises of somatic hybridization were instead fulfilled by advances in recombinant DNA technology. Rather than cast somatic hybridization as a failed research program, this paper argues that a number of factors significantly slowed, but did not halt, developments in somatic hybridization research from the 1960s; the technique should therefore be considered a dormant biotechnology. Reconstructing the history of somatic hybridization reveals a new history of modern biotechnology beyond genetic modification, dominated by plant physiologists.
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Research Article| February 01 2018
Somatic Hybridization: The Rise and Fall of a Mid-Twentieth-Century Biotechnology
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (2018) 48 (1): 1–23.
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Matthew Holmes; Somatic Hybridization: The Rise and Fall of a Mid-Twentieth-Century Biotechnology. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 February 2018; 48 (1): 1–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2018.48.1.1
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