Shaping Science with RhetoricThe Cases of Dobzhansky, Schrodinger, and Wilson

Shaping Science with RhetoricThe Cases of Dobzhansky, Schrodinger, and Wilson

Leah Ceccarelli

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226099064

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

How do scientists persuade colleagues from diverse fields to cross the disciplinary divide, risking their careers in new interdisciplinary research programs? Why do some attempts to inspire such research win widespread acclaim and support, while others do not? This book addresses such questions through close readings of three scientific monographs in their historical contexts—Theodosius Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937), which inspired the “modern synthesis” of evolutionary biology; Erwin Schrödinger's What Is Life? (1944), which catalyzed the field of molecular biology; and Edward O. Wilson's Consilience (1998), a so far not entirely successful attempt to unite the social and biological sciences. The book examines the rhetorical strategies used in each book and evaluates which worked best, based on the reviews and scientific papers that followed in their wake.