The Forgotten Father of Epigenetics

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click on image for full article

A theory put forward in the 1930s by E. E. Just, embryologist and African American, shares surprising connections with our emerging understanding of development.

W. Malcolm Byrnes

Despite the strides that have been made in recent decades to increase minorities‘ involvement in science, African Americans are still significantly underrepresented in scientific disciplines. A 2010 survey, for instance, showed that blacks make up only 5 percent of the science and engineering workforce, even though they make up 13 percent of the US population. Yet diversity is important not only for fairness in representation; it is also critical for enhancing creativity in scientific discovery.

In his 1989 book Discovering, physiologist and author Robert Root-Bernstein identifies four “inputs” into the discovery process: cultural context, the established body of science, “science in the making,” and the scientist himself or herself. The individual scientist, he notes, “will represent a unique mix of hereditary proclivities and environmental experiences.” …

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