Darwin-L Message Log 2:56 (October 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<2:56>From mayerg@cs.uwp.edu  Mon Oct 11 09:43:37 1993

Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1993 09:36:02 -0500 (CDT)
From: Gregory Mayer <mayerg@cs.uwp.edu>
Subject: Re: The term "locus"
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

	Bob O'Hara has asked what is the origin of the term "locus" in
genetics.  A brief search has not revealed the answer, but the results
might be useful for those who wish to pursue it further.  The earliest
usage I have found is by Sewall Wright in 1941, but I doubt that this is
the first.  A paper of Wright's from 1934 does _not_ use the word,
although it would have been natural to do so.  In volume one of his
_Evolution and the Genetics of Populations_ (1968. University of Chicago
Press), Wright discusses the origin of a number of genetic terms (e.g.
operon), and defines locus succinctly, but does not discuss its origin.
As I mentioned in a very early post to this list, Wright was interested in
linguistics, and if he did introduce the term, there might thus be some
connection between the genetic and philological terms.
	O'Hara suggests T.H. Morgan as a possible originator, and he, or
one of his students, is a good first guess.  The word locus does not
appear in the index of Gar Allen's biography, _Thomas Hunt Morgan_ (1978.
Princeton Univ. Press), and I could not find it in a brief perusal of the
text, but a more careful study of this book might be a place to start.  I
also found nothing in Mayr's _Growth of Biological Thought_ (Harvard
University Press), or in several introductory biology and genetics texts.

Gregory C. Mayer

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