Genetics in the Madhouse

June 5, 2018

(Science) – Decades before Gregor Mendel studied pea plants or Thomas Hunt Morgan cultivated fruitflies, an isolated but vital international community gathered enormous bodies of data on hereditary traits. As Theodore Porter describes in his fascinating and original Genetics in the Madhouse, physicians and state officials tasked with overseeing insane asylums throughout the 19th century attempted to understand the origins and nature of madness and, in so doing, laid the foundations for human genetics research today.

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