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About | Classical Genetics | Timelines | What's New | What's Hot

About | Classical Genetics | Timelines | What's New | What's Hot

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The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project: Providing world-wide, free access to classic scientific papers and other scholarly materials, since 1993.

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ESP Foundations Series

Classical Genetics

The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project was originally created to provide access to important works associated with the foundations of classical genetics. The site has now been extended to provide access to other materials as well. This page has now become the root page for the foundations of classical genetics section.

 

Holdings
Check here for new publications, changes to the site, and other news.
Browse our annotated collection of papers and books related to genetics. Full-text PDF versions of the works in this collection are available on the ESP site.
Browse our annotated collection of full-length digital books related to genetics and other fields.
Browse our collection of biographical material about scientists involved in classical genetics and other fields of interest to The Electronica Scholarly Publishing Project.
Timelines
Genetics in Context offers a dual timeline, with scientific events (especially those relevant to classical genetics) presented against those of general historical and cultural interest. Dynamic links are provided to relevant documents at the ESP site and elsewhere.
This feature gives historical context for milestones in the history of genetics. For example, did you know that Darwin published Origin of Species the year before Lincoln was elected President, while Mendel published his findings the year after Lincoln was assassinated?
Check out these and other events in Genetics in Context
ESP Project Background & Goals
Introduction
Although the problems of inheritance have fascinated observers since the beginning of recorded history, a systematic, scientific examination of heredity only began in the late nineteenth century, then exploded as an intellectual field shortly after 1900. The transformation of genetics from an observational, anecdotal endeavor to a true science with rigorous, deep theoretical foundations, and with profound explanatory power occurred very rapidly.
Classical Genetics, the study of patterns of inheritance, began with the rediscovery of Mendel's work in 1900 and flourished through the first half of the century.
Because genetics developed so rapidly in just a few decades after 1900, the literature of that period constitutes a valuable resource even now. It may be read profitably by students and scientists wishing to understand the foundations of their field, as well as by laymen or historians of science.
Unfortunately, the early literature is rapidly becoming difficult to find. Current textbooks barely devote an introductory chapter to classical genetics, and those presentations have essentially mythologized the early work so that real understanding is lost. There have been several collections of classic works developed over the years (although none lately), but these suffer from the effects of the necessary, but nonetheless pernicious, highly selective sampling that accompanies these projects. Such selectivity, coupled with introductions that offer essentially modern interpretations of the work, obscure the intellectual rigor and excitement of the original efforts.
To address these problems, The Electronic Scholoarly Publishing Project was created to republish classic literature in genetics in electronic form, so that access to these essential works will be trivially easy for all those with access to simple web-browsing software.
The literature of classical genetics remains intellectually accessible to all readers, in part because all readers bring with them a ready familiarity with the fact of inheritance (like begets like, more or less) and need only to achieve an understanding of the mechanisms of heredity as a biological process. Although modern molecular biology involves methods that can seem almost magical to the uninitiated, the original techniques of classical genetics are readily appreciated by one and all: cross individuals that differ in some inherited trait, collect all of the progeny, score their attributes, and propose mechanisms to explain the patterns of inheritance observed. Repeat as necessary.
In reading the early works of classical genetics, one is drawn, almost inexorably, into ever more complex models, until molecular explanations begin to seem both necessary and natural. At that point, the tools for understanding modern molecular research are at hand.
Assisting readers reach this point is the goal of this project

ESP Quick Facts

ESP Origins

In the early 1990's, Robert Robbins was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins, where he directed the informatics core of GDB — the human gene-mapping database of the international human genome project. To share papers with colleagues around the world, he set up a small paper-sharing section on his personal web page. This small project evolved into The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project.

ESP Support

In 1995, Robbins became the VP/IT of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. Soon after arriving in Seattle, Robbins secured funding, through the ELSI component of the US Human Genome Project, to create the original ESP.ORG web site, with the formal goal of providing free, world-wide access to the literature of classical genetics.

ESP Rationale

Although the methods of molecular biology can seem almost magical to the uninitiated, the original techniques of classical genetics are readily appreciated by one and all: cross individuals that differ in some inherited trait, collect all of the progeny, score their attributes, and propose mechanisms to explain the patterns of inheritance observed.

ESP Goal

In reading the early works of classical genetics, one is drawn, almost inexorably, into ever more complex models, until molecular explanations begin to seem both necessary and natural. At that point, the tools for understanding genome research are at hand. Assisting readers reach this point was the original goal of The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project.

ESP Usage

Usage of the site grew rapidly and has remained high. Faculty began to use the site for their assigned readings. Other on-line publishers, ranging from The New York Times to Nature referenced ESP materials in their own publications. Nobel laureates (e.g., Joshua Lederberg) regularly used the site and even wrote to suggest changes and improvements.

ESP Content

When the site began, no journals were making their early content available in digital format. As a result, ESP was obliged to digitize classic literature before it could be made available. For many important papers — such as Mendel's original paper or the first genetic map — ESP had to produce entirely new typeset versions of the works, if they were to be available in a high-quality format.

ESP Help

Early support from the DOE component of the Human Genome Project was critically important for getting the ESP project on a firm foundation. Since that funding ended (nearly 20 years ago), the project has been operated as a purely volunteer effort. Anyone wishing to assist in these efforts should send an email to Robbins.

ESP Plans

With the development of methods for adding typeset side notes to PDF files, the ESP project now plans to add annotated versions of some classical papers to its holdings. We also plan to add new reference and pedagogical material. We have already started providing regularly updated, comprehensive bibliographies to the ESP.ORG site.

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Order from Amazon

In the small "Fly Room" at Columbia University, T.H. Morgan and his students, A.H. Sturtevant, C.B. Bridges, and H.J. Muller, carried out the work that laid the foundations of modern, chromosomal genetics. The excitement of those times, when the whole field of genetics was being created, is captured in this book, written in 1965 by one of those present at the beginning. R. Robbins

The ESP Project needs help with acquiring content, writing, editing, graphic production, and with financial support.

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ESP Picks from Around the Web (updated 11 MAY 2018 )