Model and Movement: Studying Cell Movement in Early Morphogenesis, 1900 to the Present.

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Morphogenesis is one of the fundamental processes of developing life. Gastrulation, especially, marks a period of major translocations and bustling rearrangements of cells that give rise to the three germ layers. It was also one of the earliest fields in biology where cell movement and behaviour in living specimens were investigated. This article examines scientific attempts to understand gastrulation from the point of view of cells in motion. It argues that the study of morphogenesis in the twentieth century faced a major dilemma, both epistemological and pictorial: representing form and understanding movement are mutually exclusive, as are understanding form and representing movement. The article follows various ways of modelling, imaging, and simulating gastrular processes, from the early twentieth century to present-day systems biology. The first section examines the tactile modelling of shape changes, the second cell cinematography, mainly the pioneering work of the German embryologists Friedrich Kopsch and Ernst Ludwig Gräper in the 1920s but also a series of classic, yet not widely known, studies of the 1960s. The third section deals with the changes that computer simulation and live-cell imaging introduced to the modelling of shape change and the study of cell movement at the turn of the twenty-first century. Although live-cell imaging promises to experiment upon and represent the living body simultaneously, I argue that the new visuals are an obstacle rather than a solution to the puzzle of understanding cell motion.
ZeitschriftHistory and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Seiten (von - bis)59-84
Anzahl der Seiten25
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 11.09.2018