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Look Inside Discovering Cell Mechanisms

Discovering Cell Mechanisms
The Creation of Modern Cell Biology


Part of Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology

  • Date Published: July 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521729444

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About the Authors
  • Between 1940 and 1970 pioneers in the new field of cell biology discovered the operative parts of cells and their contributions to cell life. They offered mechanistic accounts that explained cellular phenomena by identifying the relevant parts of cells, the biochemical operations they performed, and the way in which these parts and operations were organised to accomplish important functions. Cell biology was a revolutionary science but in this book it also provides fuel for yet another revolution, one that focuses on the very conception of science itself. Laws have traditionally been regarded as the primary vehicle of explanation, but in the emerging philosophy of science it is mechanisms that do the explanatory work. Bechtel emphasises how mechanisms were discovered, focusing especially on the way in which new instruments made these inquiries possible. He also describes how new journals and societies provided institutional structure to this new enterprise.

    •  Develops an account of mechanistic explanation as it figures in the biological sciences
    • Advances a revolutionary approach to philosophy of science in which mechanistic explanation is emphasised rather than laws
    • Analyses the history of discovery of cell mechanisms and of the research techniques and instruments involved
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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521729444
    • length: 336 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 151 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Introduction: Cell Mechanisms and Cell Biology:
    1. A different kind of science
    2. The organization of science into disciplines
    3. The new discipline of cell biology
    Part II. Explaining Cellular Phenomena through Mechanisms:
    4. Historical conceptions of mechanism
    5. Twentieth century conceptions of mechanism
    6. Current conceptions of mechanisms
    7. Representing and reasoning about mechanisms
    8. Levels of organization and reduction
    9. Organization: from Cartesian to biological mechanisms
    10. Discovering and testing models of mechanisms
    11. Conclusions
    Part III. The Locus of Cell Mechanisms: Terra Incognita Between Cytology and Biochemistry:
    12. Cytological contributions to discovering cell mechanisms up to 1940
    13. Biochemical contributions to discovering cell mechanisms up to 1940
    14. The need to enter the Terra Incognita between cytology and biochemistry
    Part IV. Creating New Instruments and Research Techniques to Study Cell Mechanisms:
    15. The epistemology of evidence: judging artifacts
    16. The ultracentrifuge and cell fractionation
    17. The electron microscope and electron microscopy
    18. A case study of an artifact charge
    19. Equipped with new instruments and techniques to enter Terra Incognita
    Part V. Entering the Terra Incognita Between Biochemistry and Cytology:
    20. First steps towards cell biology at the Rockefeller Institute: Claude's introduction of cell fractionation
    21. Robert Bensley: an alternative approach to fractionalism
    22. Competing interpretations of fractions from normal cells
    23. Linking Claude's microsomes to protein synthesis
    24. Adding a biochemical perspective to the Rockefeller Laboratory
    25. Adding electron microscopy as a tool
    26. The state of cell studies at the end of the 1940's
    Part VI. New Knowledge: the Mechanisms of the Cytoplasm:
    27. The mitochondrion
    28. Microsomes, the endoplasmic reticulum, and ribosomes
    29. Two additional organelles
    30. Giving cell biology an institutional identity.

  • Author

    William Bechtel, University of California, San Diego
    William Bechtel is professor of philosophy and science studies at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author and editor of many books, including Discovering Complexity (with Robert C. Richardson, 1993) and Connectionism and the Mind (with Adele Abrahamsen, 2002), and he is editor of the journal Philosophical Psychology. He is the current chair of the Cognitive Science Society and past president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology.

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