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Life on IceA History of New Uses for Cold Blood$
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Joanna Radin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226417318

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226448244.001.0001

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“Before It’s Too Late”: Life from the Past

“Before It’s Too Late”: Life from the Past

Chapter:
(p.86) Three “Before It’s Too Late”: Life from the Past
Source:
Life on Ice
Author(s):

Joanna Radin

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226448244.003.0004

This chapter complements the previous one by considering how the project of collecting blood was articulated by human geneticists, who looked as much to the past as to the future. They believed that adaptations present in the blood of their “primitive” subjects would, in time, be revealed as the products of natural selection to particular environments. As ionizing radiation from nuclear tests and potential nuclear warfare threatened to scramble these signals from the past, many scientists invested in the importance of creating an archive of evidence what it had been like to be a human supposedly solely “relying on his biological endowment.” These scientists were members of organizations that had been created after the Second World War, including the World Health Organization and the decade-long International Biological Program (IBP). They invoked the concept of the baseline to construct the “primitive” as the uncontaminated normal standard by which the citizen of modernity could measure his own pollution by technoscientific society. A worldwide survey of biological variation, such as that supported by the IBP, would also be a means for American scientists to enact scientific internationalism in the service of salvaging a fleshy record of universal humanity.

Keywords:   temporality, baseline, salvage, human genetics, International Biological Program, adaptability

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