Archive for February, 2010

Let’s not forget Rosalind.

February 25, 2010

The discovery of the structure of DNA is famously attributed to Watson and Crick. But let’s not forget Rosalind Franklin. Her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA helped Watson and Crick formulate their hypothesis of the double helix. Sadly, her important contribution was not recognised until after her death.

We decided to represent Rosalind by reproducing the X-ray diffraction image in yarn. The white threads coming off the piece will then discreetly weave their way into Watson and Crick’s double helix…

Flavr Savr

February 25, 2010

The Flavr Savr tomato was the first commercially grown genetically engineered food to be granted a license for human consumption.

This is my attempt to recreate this landmark vegetable out of yarn. My knitted version might not be perfect, but neither was the actual GM tomato, first sold in 1994, it was only available for a couple of years before production ceased.

The world’s most famous sheep

February 21, 2010


A big big thank you to my housemate Woolhelmina for creating our Dolly, dubbed by Scientific American as the “world’s most famous sheep” after her landmark role in cloning research. Woolhelmina put together the design from scratch, and even Dolly’s facial wool ‘side-burns’ are an accurate representation from google images. Her fleece is made from bobble stitch, where you build a ball of stitches onto a single stitch. Just how much you can do with essentially glorified string and sticks keeps on astonishing me.

Classical genetics pattern

February 19, 2010
Classical genetics knitting pattern

Classical genetics knitting pattern

I’ve just finished my pattern for the early classical genetics years. Quite frankly it nearly killed me, not sure I’ve ever had a challenge like condensing and transforming over a hundred years of scientific work into an arts-and-craft plan. I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful for Wikipedia too…

Doing it made me realise just how much of us is going to be in the final piece. In the beginning, I thought the size of each bit of knitting was going to end up roughly correspondent to the time over which the science developed, so we’d end up with a whole that was vaguely chronological, and proportionate to time. But I’m not doing this instinctively, and  keep having to check that I’m doing it at all (partly why I’ve added dates to the map).

What’s really been driving the shape of the plan is the importance I assign to each event, career, or development; and I guess what’s mostly imbued these ideas in me is my education and the prominence of the events and figures today. For instance the biggest, brightest and most attention grabbing so far is Darwin’s bit. Pretty obvious why he’s on my mind as significant, he’s bloody everywhere! Second largest is Mendel, drummed into every schoolchild, and third Francis Galton, who infamously laid the foundations of eugenics.  As well as imposing my own development as a knitter on the piece, I’m also refracting the science through my history and experiences.

When I was drawing it I was nearly exclusively bouncing from one Wiki link to another: I’d draw a bit for one scientist or field, and then look for a development or apprentice’s work to represent in the next and connected piece of knitting. I’ve been studying some narrative theory and there seem to be some parallels there too, in the way I was looking at pages and pages of information, but using causal links to navigate it all and tie pieces together.

Anyway, less biro more needle clicking for a bit now…

Cast-on Clarissa finally CASTS ON!

February 17, 2010

Yesterday I produced my first piece of actual knitting!

I have a bit of catching up to do to be able to create masterpieces like those of Needle-fingered Sue and Drop-stitch Dorothy…better get moving….I’m starting with genomics – in red.

The influence of Industry…it’s pink and fluffy??

February 17, 2010

I found a new tool to aid my one handed knitting attempts!  Her names is Knitting Nancy.  She was found lurking in my parents’ house.  Using the four staples that protrude from her head (no wonder she looks fed up) you can create a long piece of what’s called French Knitting.  It looks a bit like a long worm – I can’t think how else to describe it!

We decided to use this pink fluffy ‘wool’ to represent Industry.  The ‘wool’ is synthetic, which we thought apt, and somewhat alien in appearance.  Our Industrial worm will weave its way into the various fields of genetics that emerged after the genetic code had been cracked, and DNA sequencing had been made possible.

Pure Nobel Prize Gold

February 17, 2010

Thank you to the highly organised team who coordinated the search for this beautiful yellow and gold Nobel prize winning yarn. As we read about the history of genetics, we noticed a cluster of Nobel prizes in the field between the late 1950’s and the mid 1960’s, when the genetic code was understood. Here they are:

1957 – Alexander Robertus Todd received the Nobel Prize for chemistry for synthesising chemicals leading to the discovery of the structure of DNA.

1958 – Beadle and Tatum received the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology for demonstrating that one gene controls the production of one enzyme.

1959 – Arthur Kornberg received the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology for demonstrating that DNA can copy itself.

1962 – Watson and Crick received the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology for their discovery of the structure of DNA.

1965 – Jacob and Monod received the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology for demonstrating how genes are switched on and off.

5 gold pom-poms coming up…

Mendel rediscovered

February 14, 2010

Knitting the work of Hugo de Vries

Our Mendelian pea is a beauty.

His work was rediscovered in 1900, 35 years after he published his paper, so I’m cracking on with knitting this. Completely by chance, three different scientists came across it independently: Hugo de Vries from Holland, Carl Correns from Germany, and Erich von Tschermak from Austria. We’ve decided to represented this through their national flags, so above I’m working on Hugo de Vries’s discovery.

It’s a bit knotty and wonky next to our lovely pea, but how can you compare with so simple and elegant a theory?

Coming up: William Bateson champions Mendel in England via garter stitch.

Pea, by Mendel (circa 1860)

February 12, 2010

Mendel's perfect pea pod

This isn’t the best picture and it certainly doesn’t do the peas justice but I think it merits being posted. Huge thank you to our expert knitter for creating this beautiful knitted pea pod. Mendel would have been proud.

Mendel is often considered the father of modern genetics. At the time, his theory of genetic inheritance was largely ignored. It was not until it was rediscovered in the early 20th century that it all started making a bit more sense…

one handed efforts!

February 10, 2010

At last I have managed to contribute something to our growing creation! Hannah very kindly showed me how to finger knit.  This more rudimentary form of knitting will be used to represent Walther Flemming’s discovery of material in the nucleus that he called chromatin.   What he saw was later identified as chromosomes, meaning coloured bodies.  As needle-fingered Sue said, I’m using purple wool: this was the colour of the dye he used.  Rudimentary knitting is appropriate because Flemming failed to make the connection between his work genetic inheritance because he was unaware of the work done by Mendel.

The next challenge for me is crochet, which I’m reliably informed I can do one handed!  This is a different technique to knitting, although it uses the same materials, so we’ll have to think carefully about how we can include it in our creation.