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May 20, 1974

The Modern Concept of Nature: Essays on Theoretical Biology and Evolution

Author Affiliations

New York University School of Medicine New York

JAMA. 1974;228(8):1040. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230330070036

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This volume reprints ten of H. J. Muller's articles dealing with mutation and evolutionary change. The title, The Modern Concept of Nature, and subtitle, Essays on Theoretical Biology, seem to promise an interpretive synthesis of science in the tradition of T. H. Huxley, Bertrand Russell, and P. W. Bridgman, but the book is not of this nature.

Muller was a brilliant geneticist and an indefatigable worker. He made the discovery that ionizing radiation is mutagenic and he created many of the fundamental techniques of genetic research. He was not, however, a graceful synthesizer. His style was pedantic and often awkward; his rhetorical conceits are labored and tend to distract rather than elucidate.

The articles are reviews and essays published originally between 1922 and 1958. They do not constitute an integrated whole; there is considerable repetition. Repeatedly, they cite other work in the field without explaining it, and some of these