Skip to main content

Lords of the Fly

Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life

The common fruit fly, Drosophila, has long been one of the most productive of all laboratory animals. From 1910 to 1940, the center of Drosophila culture in America was the school of Thomas Hunt Morgan and his students Alfred Sturtevant and Calvin Bridges. They first created "standard" flies through inbreeding and by organizing a network for exchanging stocks of flies that spread their practices around the world.

In Lords of the Fly, Robert E. Kohler argues that fly laboratories are a special kind of ecological niche in which the wild fruit fly is transformed into an artificial animal with a distinctive natural history. He shows that the fly was essentially a laboratory tool whose startling productivity opened many new lines of genetic research. Kohler also explores the moral economy of the "Drosophilists": the rules for regulating access to research tools, allocating credit for achievements, and transferring authority from one generation of scientists to the next.

By closely examining the Drosophilists’ culture and customs, Kohler reveals essential features of how experimental scientists do their work.

344 pages | 35 halftones, 9 line drawings, 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1994

Biological Sciences: Evolutionary Biology

History of Science


"Kohler’s study is a pioneering and provocative one, as he reveals just how important experimental skills and practices have been to the development of twentieth-century genetics. His contribution is a welcome alternative to static accounts of theory overpowering all aspects of experimental life. . . . Kohler’s text will surely find its place among the most important books in the history of biology."<\#209>Myles W. Jackson,
<I>Journal of Modern History

Myles W. Jackson | Journal of Modern History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1: The Nature of Experimental Life
2: Crossing the Threshold
3: Constructing Drosophila
4: The Fly People
5: The Drosophila Exchange Network
6: Improvisations
7: Reconstructing Drosophila: Developmental Genetics
8: From Laboratory to Field: Evolutionary Genetics

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press