The rise and fall of the idea of genetic information (1948-2006)
Genomics, Society and Policy 2006 December; 2(3): 16-36
On 26 June 2000, during the presentation of the Human Genome Project s first draft, Bill Clinton, then President of the United States, claimed that today we are learning the language in which God created life . Behind his remarks lay a story of more than half a century involving the understanding of DNA as information. This paper analyses that story, discussing the origins of the informational view of our genes during the early 1950s, how such a view affected the research on the genetic code (1950s and 60s) and the transformation of the information idea in the context of DNA sequencing and bioinformatics ( 80s and 90s). I suggest that the concept of DNA as information reached a climax with the proposal of the Human Genome Project (HGP), but is currently facing a crisis coinciding with the questioning of the information society. Finally, I discuss the emergence of systems biology as an alternative paradigm.
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