Posted by: Dan | June 15, 2007

How Cells Became Technologies: A History of Cell Culture

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Science has a book review that caught my attention, The Culture of Cell Culture, for Culturing Life by Hannah Landecker, that promises to be a great primer on the history of modern cell biology.

Culturing Life, Hannah Landecker’s history of cell culture, is a sly commentary on our mixed-up, topsy-turvy biological world, circa 2007. Mouse-human hybrids, immortal cells, cloned puppies, genetically modified crops, and dinosaur proteins found in fossilizedbone all suggest that organisms are plastic, unstable, and not even the masters of their own cells, which can live outside them, perhaps “forever.” Landecker’s work tracks the practices and technologies implicated in this unsettling state of affairs over the last century.

Drawing primarily on the methods sections of published scientific papers, a nontraditional historical resource, Landecker (an anthropologist at Rice University) explores techniques for handling cells outside the body. She proposes that the emergence of new methods of cell manipulation produced a scientific and social climate in which living matter is assumed to be material that can be started or stopped at will.


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