The Wellcome Library is delighted to announce details of the 2015 Fred Sanger Lecture, which will take place on Weds 4th November 2015, 6.30pm in the Henry Wellcome auditorium, Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE

The lecture will be given bv Angela N. H. Creager, Thomas M. Siebel Professor in the History of Science, Princeton University.


“‘EAT. DIE.’ The Domestication of Carcinogens in the 1980s”

In the two decades following the 1962 publication of Silent Spring, the US government sought to regulate environmental pollutants in the name of controlling human cancer. The development of short-term tests for mutagens promised an inexpensive, rapid way to identify carcinogens among the tens of thousands of chemicals on the market. However, by the 1980s, findings from these rapid, in vitro mutagenicity tests corroded these hopes. On the one hand, it turned out that some chemical carcinogens were not also mutagens, and thus escaped detection in these tests. On the other hand, many natural substances, such as compounds in foods and beverages—as well as products of normal metabolism—proved to be mutagenic. Related advances in understanding DNA damage led biologists increasingly to regard cancer as a by-product of aging. A public anxious about the dangers of contaminating pesticides and food additives was confronted with the message that the natural components of the human diet were already carcinogenic. In turn, antiregulatory interests (especially chemical companies and conservative politicians) seized on the emerging complexities of controlling human exposures to mutagens to subvert environmental regulation. This lecture attempts to offer a critical appraisal of the diet-cancer conundrum of the 1980s against the background of the emerging field of genetic toxicology.

To attend, book your free ticket via the Wellcome Collection website.


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