A Loose Canon….

Although the cataloguing of Waddington’s papers is complete, there is still some refoldering and reboxing to be done, to ensure that the material is stored in an archival-quality environment. During this process, one can often come across things one missed the first time around – such as this amusing ‘canon’, with words by Waddington and music by Ralph Alan Dale (an American doctor and Oriental acupuncture expert). (A canon, also sometimes called a ‘round’, is a contrapuntal composition technique which has a melody that is repeated after a certain duration.)

It appears that this highly alliterative piece was composed for a dinner party while Waddington was Einstein Professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo in the early 1970s. I think you would be hard pressed to find a more ‘wordy’ set of lyrics:

It appears impossible to prevent the philoprogenitive propensities of persons peopling the planet with two times its present population of two timers.

The pressure to provide provender and prevent pestilence will be portentous.

People Science perceptive enough to empathize the problems and proposals will profit from a propitious posture to promote their personality potentials.

The querulous who merely question the qualifications of the scientific enquiry after quantity and quality will find that their eternal quest is querying whether their quasi quietude qualifies them for equality quashiokor quod’or the quietus unless these quandum Quixotes quite quit their queasy quibbling and take as quarry their quota of quotidian quiddities.

They will earn their quittance when they can qualify as equating ZBG with a quorum of the quick rather than an unquiet queue of the untimely quenched.

The instructions for performing this piece are almost as complex as the lyrics themselves:

The canon has two parts: the ‘p’ part and the ‘q’ part. The entire piece should first be performed in unison. Then part 1 begins alone. On reaching part II (the ‘q’ part), the second part enters at the beginning (the ‘p’ part). Both parts finish together on ending on the word ‘potentials’, the other ending on the word ‘quenched’. Repeat as many times as desired before ending.

For the more musical among you, it would be interesting to see how this piece sounds when performed – and not least how many times the performers were physically able to ‘repeat…before ending’!

Cover Art and Science

The Proceedings of the 4thWorld Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production. XV: Beef Cattle, Sheep and Pig Genetics and Breeding Fibre and Fur, Meat Quality. Edinburgh 23-27 July 1990 has the best cover art I’ve seen so far out of all the off-prints I’ve catalogued. It blends prehistoric art images with modern day formulas into a harmonious whole.


The Institute of Animal Genetics

With the cataloguing of C.H. Waddington’s papers now completed, my next task is to move on to the cataloguing of the papers of the Institute of Animal Genetics, which was housed in the handsome building pictured above.

The building’s architect was John Matthew of the firm Lorimer & Matthew, and construction took place 1929-1930. With its symmetrical design, Dutch gable, balcony and arched windows, the building is somewhat reminiscent of a country house.

In many ways, the ‘Institute’ was as much a concept as it was a building. As an organisation, its predecessor was the Department of Research in Animal Breeding, under the Directorship of Professor Crew. Originally housed in central Edinburgh, in 1924 the Department moved to the King’s Buildings site to the south of Edinburgh, before transferring to the newly opened Genetics Building nearby in 1930. At this point the Department itself became known as the Institute of Animal Genetics. As time went by however, this name became more attached to the building, which was to house numerous bodies and factions over the years, such as the Animal Breeding and Research Organisation (ABRO) and Waddington’s ARC Unit of Animal Genetics. The building, which still stands, has been renamed the Crew Building, and is now home to the School of Geosciences.

This picture was taken from a photograph album presented to Waddington in 1955 by his colleagues on the occasion of his 50th birthday celebrations at the Institute. The original photo album will be catalogued shortly, along with the rest of the Institute’s records.

Mapping the Porcine Genome

On 1 October, 1989 Chris S. Haley and Alan L. Archibald, scientists at the Institute of Animal Production and Genetic Research, circulated a report entitled: Annex 1 – A Genetic and Physical Map of the Pig. In the report they note that the ‘concept of using a complete genetic map as a tool for understanding and exploiting genetic variation is not new. However, it is only with the advent of molecular genetic techniques, which provide the prospect of large numbers of genetic markers based on restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs), that the concept has become realisable.’ The summary of their report explains:

Many of the future development in animal science and in animal improvement will depend upon the presence of species specific genome maps largely based upon RFLP markers. It is likely that such maps will be developed in all major domestic species, but the pig has several advantages for such a project. We propose here that a project is initiated to produce a genetic and physical map of the porcine genome based upon a cross between the genetically distinct Chinese Meishan and Large White breeds. Such a map would provide a basis upon which a generally applicable map could be built and would provide the first opportunity to detect and map genes controlling economically important phenotypic traits.

Image: Timetable for mapping the porcine genome

Gene or genome mapping is the creation of a genetic map assigning DNA fragments to chromosomes. For those interested in learning more about genomics, gene mapping and current research and trends in this area, here are a few websites of interest:

ERSC Genomics Network (Edinburgh): http://www.genomicsnetwork.ac.uk/

Dr. DJ De Koning, Roslin Institute’s research summary: http://www.roslin.ed.ac.uk/dj-de_koning/summary-of-research/

National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA, Gene Mapping Fact Sheet: http://www.genome.gov/10000715