Sequencing, bibliometrics and history: a from-below approach to the emergence of human genomics

Miguel García-Sancho
University of Edinburgh
Thursday, 8 June 2023 - 11:00

In this talk, I will explore the development of DNA sequencing as a scientific practice from the mid-1980s onwards. By combining qualitative and quantitative methods, I will show that this practice was organised in a variety of ways and that this variety both extends and qualifies the epic history that the proponents of the Human Genome Project mobilised. One of the points of divergence between our stories is that, in my investigation, the sequencing of human DNA was often connected to medical problems. This suggests that prioritising the completion of the human genome over any clinical use was a contingent and rather unique strategy resulting from the creation of large sequencing centres during the last stages of the Human Genome Project. Beyond the policies to foster this project, the human genome was sequenced at a much smaller scale and with a clearer vision of the future application of the resulting genomic information.


Ciudad Politécnica de la Innovación
Edificio 8E, Acceso J, Planta 4ª (Sala Descubre. Cubo Rojo)
Universidad Politécnica de Valencia | Camino de Vera s/n


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Short CV: 

Miguel García-Sancho is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies of the University of Edinburgh. After finishing his PhD at Imperial College London, he worked at the Centre for the History of Science of the University of Manchester and at the Institute of Philosophy of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). His area of expertise is the history of contemporary biomedicine, with emphasis on the transition between molecular biology and new forms of knowledge production at the end of the twentieth century: biotechnology, bioinformatics and genomics. He has just concluded the project Medical Translation in the History of Modern Genomics with funding from the European Research Council. The most important results of this investigation are a special issue of the journal Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences that addresses the combination of quantitative and qualitative methods in historical research, and a monograph entitled A History of Genomics across Species, Communities and Projects (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023).

Prior to this, he studied the History of animal genetics, agricultural biotechnology and the cloning of Dolly the sheep. His book Biology, Computing and the History of Molecular Sequencing: From Proteins to DNA was published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2012 (paperback in 2015). Before being a historian of science, he worked as a journalist and is interested in science communication and knowledge exchange. He is also seeking new lines of research on forensic genomics and the interactions between genetic information and the politics of memory.