The Wellcome Trust
has announced it is setting up a massive, million-page digital archive covering the history of genetics. The Trust describes its "Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics
" archive as follows:
[It] contains more than one million pages of first-hand notes, letters, sketches, lectures, photographs and essays from the circle of brilliant minds responsible for uncovering the structure of DNA. The site lays bare the personal and professional thoughts, rivalries, blind alleys and breakthroughs of the scientists whose ideas transformed our understanding of the matter of life.
Among the treasures in the archive will be notebooks and correspondence of Francis Crick, who, along with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, won the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology of Medicine for elucidating the double-helix structure of DNA.
The history of genetics is among my interests as well. I have discussed the history of genetics and gene patents in a 2010 article, "Gene Concepts, Gene Talk, and Gene Patents
," published in the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology.
The archive will make available the good, the bad, and the ugly of modern genetics, including the views of leading genetics on such controversial topics as eugenics, genetic determinism, and human genetic engineering. Genes may not be destiny, but genetics is destined to be more fully understood once its primary documents are made available to one and all for first-hand review.