Genetics in the Atomic Age

Charlotte AUERBACH

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AUERBACH, Charlotte, Ph.D., D.Sc. Genetics in the Atomic Age. Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, (1956). Octavo, original red paper boards, original dust jacket.

First edition of a key work on genetic mutations by Auerbach—"one of the first scientists to understand the dangers of nuclear radiation"—with numerous full- and in-text illustrations, in original dust jacket.

Auerbach, a Jewish woman born in Germany, fled in the 1930s for Edinburgh, where she completed her PhD. "She was a pioneer in the study of genetic mutations… one of the first scientists to understand the dangers of nuclear radiation" (National Library of Scotland). Best known for discovering "that mustard gas could induce mutations in the chromosomes of living cells," she began researching the subject at a time when the War Office was looking into the wider effects of mustard gas. At the Institute of Animal Genetics, she worked with geneticist H.J. Muller for a time, and in 1940, with J.M. Robson, began studying "gene mutations in Drosophila exposed to mustard gas." While their experiments "confirmed that the mustard gas did have mutagenic effects… their results could not be published until after the war." Thus, in 1946, they were finally able to name "mustard gas as the substance they had tested… and in 1948 Auerbach presented the paper, Chemical Induction of Mutations, at the Eighth International Congress of Genetics in Stockholm. In 1948 she received the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Keith Prize." Auerbach was also a noted author, a fellow of the Royal Society, a member of the U.S. Academy of Sciences and the recipient of the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society" (International Women in Science, 11-12).

"Although she hated to be described as the 'mother of chemical mutagenesis,' in a very real sense she was" (Genetics Society of America). In Genetics in the Atomic Age, written for both scientists and a general audience, she shows how "the atomic age which we are about to enter will see an increase in the force of Mutation. Our dignity as thinking beings, and our responsibility towards the future generations, require us to consider what effect this change will have on the fate of mankind." First edition, first printing: "First Published…. 1956" on copyright page. With numerous full- and in-text illustrations, some in color, by I.G. Auerbach. Small owner signatures, along with inscribed date of "April 1956."

Text quite fresh with only light foxing to preliminaries; trace of tape removal to flaps, minimal edge-wear to colorful dust jacket. A handsome about-fine copy.

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