The Interpretation of Development and Heredity: a Study in Biological Method

Abstract

IN some branches of biology the relevant data can be pieced together without the aid of any very comprehensive conception of the structure or potentialities of the living organism. The study of animal development, on the other hand, constantly provides facts which require, for their interpretation, a definite conception of broad biological principles. The developing embryo has potentialities often only revealed in the laboratory, and not infrequently it exhibits, in a striking manner, the subordination of parts to the requirements of the organism as a whole. To state that the activities of an organism are something more than an integration of the activities of all its parts, is perhaps a truism, but in Dr. Russell's pages it is the central theme of an extremely interesting and careful argument which leads to the establishment of ths organism as the only fundamental and valid unit; in biology. If we accept this conclusion, we reach what the author calls the ‘organismal’ conception of development, which gives us “rules of method for the study of living things and their parts without implying any mysterious ‘action of the whole ’on those parts”. We can “accept the simple facts of observation that the organism acts as a whole and that the activities of its parts are subordinated to and co-operate in whatever the organism as a whole is doing at the moment of observation. It is from this simple and objective point of view that we must regard the relation between the organism and its cells and energids.”

The Interpretation of Development and Heredity: a Study in Biological Method.

Dr. E. S. Russell, Pp. vi + 312. (Oxford: Clarendon Press; London: Oxford University Press, 1930.) 15s. net.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

GRAY, J. The Interpretation of Development and Heredity: a Study in Biological Method . Nature 127, 920–921 (1931). https://doi.org/10.1038/127920a0

Download citation

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.