Week 3 Research

Barbara McClintock studied corn by empathising with it, studying generations of corn minutely and then taking her conclusions from the particular to the general.

This is the opposite of the way much science research is carried out today, with the model being propose a hypothesis, test the hypothesis on a broad random sample, making the experiments repeatedly if possible, and draw conclusions from the findings.

The author argues that she was a woman scientist but that she was not performing "women's science". The way she approached her science was unpopular at the time, and she was given short shrift by the scientific community of her day because she didn't conform to their idea of the correct way to collect knowledge.

She had trouble with men "who felt intimidated or threatened by what one of her colleagues described as her "independence, originality, and extraordinary accomplishment." In the most notable case, Lowell Randolph, her advisor and colleague, became extremely irritated with McClintock's success in solving a problem he had spent his entire life working on."

"In 1983, Barbara McClintock was awarded a Nobel Prize in Genetics. To this day, her work is highly esteemed, still relevant despite the fact that much of it was completed over half a century ago, before the advent of the molecular era"

Good brief bio:


This reminds me of the person who studied the ant colony over many years, finding that the colonies themselves go through stages of development likened to the stages of development of people, e.g. the 'adolescence' of an ant colony.

It's not enough to take a snapshot of something and call it definitive. You need to study it within its own context. Learn to be with the corn and understand it, study ant colonies for the duration of their existence, and on a larger scale, study populations and civilisations as they develop, peak and then decline. The general and the particular, the large and the small all much of a muchness. Are we evolving as part of an homogenous group. Race is meaningless, although genetics is not. Nature and nurture, Nature and nature?