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Abstract Detail

A Historical Perspective on Chicago Area Botany

Doebley, John [1].

George Beadle's role in the corn domestication story: the Chicago connection.

As a graduate student at Cornell University under R. A. Emerson in the 1930s, George Beadle worked briefly on the genetics and cytology of maize and its wild relative, teosinte. This work convinced Beadle that maize was a domesticated form of teosinte, a wild grass native to Mexico. This was a remarkable conclusion given that maize and teosinte differ radically in their inflorescence architecture, and most botanists at the time considered the morphological differences between maize and teosinte too profound to have evolved under domestication. Beadle's model for maize domestication became known as the "teosinte hypothesis." Between 1940 and 1970, Paul Mangelsdorf of Harvard University proposed an alternative view that maize was not a domesticated form of teosinte but evolved from an extinct form of wild maize. Mangelsdorf's view became the dominate theory in both the popular and scientific literature, and Beadle's "teosinte hypothesis" was largely ignored. Upon retiring in the 1960s from his position as president of the University of Chicago, Beadle returned to his research on maize domestication. Through this work, he led a successful effort to establish the "teosinte hypothesis" as the most widely respected and accepted interpretation of the origin of maize. Since the 1970s, extensive genetic and molecular analyses have shown that Beadle's teosinte hypothesis alone can explain the available data.

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1 - University of Wisconsin, Genetics, 425 Henry Mall, Madison, WI, 53706, USA


Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: SY12
Location: Williford C/Hilton
Date: Tuesday, July 10th, 2007
Time: 10:30 AM
Number: SY12006
Abstract ID:58

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