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ARTICLE IN PRESS Annales de g n tique 00 2003 000 000 www elsevier com locate anngen The history of cytogenetics Portraits of some pioneersj S Gilgenkrantz a E M Rivera b b a University of Nancy France Michigan State University USA Received 6 March 2003 accepted 28 March 2003 1 Preamble In his book La M moire l Histoire l Oubli Paul Ricoeur reminds us of the diff cult path that must be traversed between memory and its historic representation It is hazardous to try it But it is worth attempting to sketch some faces those that oblivion has not erased and to find again the climate of the times sometimes full of sound and fury progressing from the polytene chromosomes of diptera to the human chromosomes of today fluorescent and multicolored thanks to technological advances that now permit us to explore all their secrets It has not always been so and if henceforth human cytogenetics plays an authoritative role in the classification of animal and vegetable karyotypes we would be wrong to forget that all began with flies and corn 2 Nonhuman chromosomes Thomas Hunt Morgan 1866 1945 was working on the sea urchin when at the age of 43 on the advice of W E Castle of the University of California he decided to use the vinegar fly as an experimental tool Son of a captain of the Confederate army the war of secession ended in 1865 he was rigorous modest and methodical He examined hundreds of generations of these highly prolific flies one generation occurs every 12 d He made a good choice The Drosophila was an ideal animal for comparative studies of phenotype and chromosomal structure It can be observed with a binocular magnifying glass It possesses only four pairs of chromosomes j Translated Corresponding author E mail address s gilgenkrantz chu nancy fr S Gilgenkrantz 2003 ditions scientifiques et m dicales Elsevier SAS All rights reserved DOI 10 1016 S0003 3995 03 00012 1 The salivary glands of its larvae possess giant chromosomes called polytenes 1 whose transverse striations



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