Vienna-Chicago: the cultural transformation of the model system of the un-opposed molar. Academic Article uri icon


  • The discussion over the roles of genes and environment on the phenotypical specification of organisms has held a central role in science philosophy since the late 19(th) century and has re-emerged in today's debate over genetic determinism and developmental plasticity. In fin-de-siecle Vienna, this debate coincided with a philosophical debate over empiricism/materialism versus idealism/vitalism. Turn-of-the-century Vienna's highly interdisciplinary environment was also the birthplace for the model system of the un-opposed molar. The un-opposed molar system features new tissue formation at the roots of teeth and tooth drift once opposing teeth are lost. The un-opposed molar model system was revived by a group of Viennese scientists who left Vienna during the Nazi period to address Vienna's questions about evolution and heredity and about genes and environment in Chicago's post-WWII scientific exile community. Here we are using the colorful history of the un-opposed molar to investigate the role of culture and method in the scientific evolution of a model system.

published proceedings

  • Bioessays

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Luan, X., & Diekwisch, T.

citation count

  • 12

complete list of authors

  • Luan, Xianghong||Diekwisch, Thomas GH

publication date

  • August 2007