Modern Concept of Nature, The

Essays on Theoretical Biology and Evolution

By Hermann J. Muller
Edited by Elof A. Carlson

Hardcover : 9780873950961, 272 pages, June 1973


Hermann Joseph Muller (1890-1967) was a member of the early genetics group at Columbia University that developed the chromosome theory of inheritance. T. H. Morgan received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for this work in 1934, and Muller, his student, received the Nobel Prize in 1946 for his discovery of radiation-induced mutation.

The Modern Concept of Nature: Essays on Theoretical Biology by H. J. Muller, deals with Muller's major contributions to the theory of the gene, the induction of mutations, the principles of genetic load, and the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. These essays contributed to the modern outlook of biology, and they are important to the historian and the biologist who wish to trace the evolution of scientific concepts or to read, first hand, the papers which laid the basis for the major portion of our genetic knowledge.

Muller's writings extended beyond contributions to technical journals. He was an active critic of social abuse of science; he advocated eugenic programs based on free choice; and he played a major role in the reform of high school biology.

Muller's social views were published in magazines and journals which are accessible to scholars more than to the lay reader or student. They have been collected in a companion volume, Man's Future Birthright: Essays in Science and Humanity by H. J. Muller, also published by State University of New York Press, to show how extensively he thought our lives are affected by radiation, evolution, modern medicine, and gene theory. He attempted to alert humanity to the dangers of neglect and abuse of their genetic heritage. He also used humanistic values to urge mankind to improve itself, to foster cooperativeness, to increase health and intelligence, and to adopt an evolutionary outlook.

The relation of science to values is often neglected because of the inaccessibility of the written contributions of important scientists. To read Muller's major essays in these two areas is an important way to evaluate a scientist's career, his maturation of ideas, and his developing application of science to society.

Elof Axel Carlson is a geneticist who studied under Muller at Indiana University where he received his Ph. D. in 1958. Dr. Carlson is Professor of Biology, State University of New York at Stony Brook. He received the E. Harris Harbison Award for Distinguished Teaching, 1972, from the Danforth Foundation.