The Ovary of Eve: Egg and Sperm and Preformation

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9780226669540: The Ovary of Eve: Egg and Sperm and Preformation
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The Ovary of Eve is a rich and often hilarious account of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century efforts to understand conception. In these early years of the Scientific Revolution, the most intelligent men and women of the day struggled to come to terms with the origins of new life, and one theory—preformation—sparked an intensely heated debate that continued for over a hundred years. Clara Pinto-Correia traces the history of this much maligned theory through the cultural capitals of Europe.

"The most wonderfully eye-opening, or imagination-opening book, as amusing as it is instructive."—Mary Warnock, London Observer

"[A] fascinating and often humorous study of a reproductive theory that flourished from the mid-17th century to the mid-18th century."—Nina C. Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education

"More than just a good story, The Ovary of Eve is an object lesson about the history of science: Don't trust it. . . . Pinto-Correia says she wants to tell the story of history's losers. In doing so, she makes defeat sound more appealing than victory."—Emily Eakin, Nation.

"A sparkling history of preformation as it once affected every facet of European culture."—Robert Taylor, Boston Globe

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The Ovary of Eve is a rich and often hilarious account of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century efforts to understand conception. In these early years of the Scientific Revolution, the most intelligent men and women of the day struggled to come to terms with the origins of new life, and one theory - preformation - sparked an intensely heated debate that continued for over a hundred years. Preformation assumed that, during Creation, God had placed infinite generations of perfect miniature creatures inside their future parents, much like nested Russian dolls. But were these perfect beings in the egg or the sperm? The answer mattered a great deal, because both the Church and the larger society held women accountable for the Fall and Original Sin, as well as for birth defects and failures to conceive, while inheritance of social position and titles, even kingdoms, passed through the male line. The "ovists" debated the "spermists" in palaces and cafes, in churches and at family dinner tables, as the aristocracy, the Church, and the intelligentsia tried to resolve what the ancient Greeks called "the mystery of mysteries". Clara Pinto-Correia weaves the strands of this debate into the cultural and social history of the day and shows why intelligent men and women became committed to a view of life that seems unbelievable to us today.

From Kirkus Reviews:

The origins of humankind have inspired endless speculation in myth, religion, philosophy, and science. In this scholarly volume, Portuguese developmental biologist Pinto-Correia elaborates on the history of one theory. From the mid-17th to the mid-18th centuries, battle lines were drawn between preformationists, who believed that all mankind was conceived in the ovary of Eve, and epigeneticists, who believed that development began de novo in each egg. Within the first camp there was further division between ovists, who believed future generations were encased within the egg like a series of ever-shrinking Russian dolls, and spermists, who saw a similar series of minipersons in the sperm head. Pinto-Correia's point is that the preformationists have gotten short shrift in the historical record, their ideas ridiculed and caricatured. But, she says, you can read today's homage to the genome as preformation reconfigured in the form of the idea that it's all written in the genes. Many will question that conclusion, however: Today's epigeneticists point to complex gene-environment interactions in development. In all fairness, the volume covers much more than an arcane chapter in the history of embryology. There are fascinating details on the evolution of thought in Harvey, Leeuwenhoek, Spallanzani (who preceded Pasteur in showing that spontaneous generation didn't exist), and numerous others. Many were skilled microscopists and experimental scientists who nevertheless reconciled what their eyes saw with what their soul believed. Pinto-Correia also elaborates on the denigration of women that colored many arguments, the importance of measurement and numerology (you could figure out how many Russian dolls you'd need, given that the universe was only 6,000 years old), and so on. (Stephen Jay Gould contributes a foreword.) In short, there is a rich meal to dine on--not to be swallowed at one sitting--but perhaps to inspire other scholar/chefs to stew about. (55 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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9780226669526: The Ovary of Eve: Egg and Sperm and Preformation

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ISBN 10:  0226669521 ISBN 13:  9780226669526
Publisher: University of Chicago Press, 1997
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Book Description University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1998. Softcover. Condition: New. 420 pages. Softcover. New book. BIOLOGY. The Ovary of Eve is a rich and often hilarious account of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century efforts to understand conception. In these early years of the Scientific Revolution, the most intelligent men and women of the day struggled to come to terms with the origins of new life, and one theoryÑpreformationÑsparked an intensely heated debate that continued for over a hundred years. Clara Pinto-Correia traces the history of this much maligned theory through the cultural capitals of Europe. "The most wonderfully eye-opening, or imagination-opening book, as amusing as it is instructive."ÑMary Warnock, London Observer "[A] fascinating and often humorous study of a reproductive theory that flourished from the mid-17th century to the mid-18th century."ÑNina C. Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education "More than just a good story, The Ovary of Eve is an object lesson about the history of science: Don't trust it. . . . Pinto-Correia says she wants to tell the story of history's losers. In doing so, she makes defeat sound more appealing than victory."ÑEmily Eakin, Nation. "A sparkling history of preformation as it once affected every facet of European culture."ÑRobert Taylor, Boston Globe Contents List of Illustrations Foreword Preface Prologue: Dare to Know 1. All About Eve 2. All About Adam 3. "One Does Not See the Wind" 4. Hopeful Monsters 5. Frogs with Boxer Shorts 6. The H Word 7. The Music of the Spheres 8. Magical Numbers Epilogue: The Fat Lady Will Not Sing Notes Bibliography Index (Key Words: Clara Pinto-Correia, Testicles, Ovaries, Reproduction, Sperm Cells, Lazzaro Spallanzani, Biological Sciences: Evolutionary Biology, Semen, Paracelsus, Natural History, History of Science, Women, Masturbation, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, God, Homunculi, Embryos, God, Eggs, Conception, Charles Bonnet, Comte Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, Aristotle). book. Seller Inventory # 81417X1

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Book Description The University of Chicago Press, United States, 1998. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. The first thing children ask about sex is typically, Where do babies come from? This, the most perplexing scientific question of all time, was hailed by the ancient Greeks as the mystery of mysteries . Throughout history the most intelligent and well-educated men and women have struggled to understand how we reproduce, and the full picture is far from complete. In the mid-17th century, a theory of reproduction - preformation - sparked a heated debate that continued for over 100 years. Preformation proposed that miniature creatures waiting to be born existed inside each potential parent much like a Russian nesting doll. It was thought that God placed these beings during Creation and predetermined the precise moment that each would unfold and exist. In The Ovary of Eve , Clara Pinto-Correia traces the history of this much-maligned theory, ultimately revealing its critical influence on the modern view of conception. Opinion on preformation was sharply divided. Ovists believed that preformed individuals existed in the egg, but spermists argued that the locus of perfection before birth was in the sperm. This controversy ranged beyond the narrow confines of biology. Most scholars were reluctant to allow perfection to women. After all, these debates occurred in a culture which held women responsible for the Fall and original sin and which saw women as imperfect or incomplete males. Yet spermism entailed a moral dilemma, - why would God allow millions of preformed individuals to die with each ejaculate? Pinto-Correia recounts this controversy in all its complexity, revealing the religious, cultural and social climate of the day. Acknowledging that several modern authors have presented preformation as little more than an entertaining interlude in the study of reproduction, Pinto-Correia nonetheless seeks to recast preformation as an important theory with a precious legacy. Her book shows that the basic tenets understood by the old preformationists are still a crucial part of developmental biology and effect such state-of-the art techniques as cloning. Seller Inventory # BTE9780226669540

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