Biodynamica, published by Basile J. Luyet

Biodynamica - Basile J. Luyet from volume 1, 1934-1938

Historians of the synthesis period in evolutionary studies, aka evolutionary synthesis, are deeply familiar with the Columbia Biological Series. This monograph series included key texts for the American evolutionist community, including Theodosius Dobzhansky’s (1937) Genetics and the Origin of Species, Ernst Mayr’s (1942) Systematics and the Origin of Species, George Simpson’s (1944) Tempo and Mode in Evolution, and G. Ledyard Stebbins’s (1950) Variation and Evolution in Plants.

I produced a bibliography for the whole Columbia Biological Series (Cain 2001). I also proposed an unconventional narrative to explain the restart of the series in 1936 by Leslie Clarence Dunn. He recruited Dobzhansky into a plan to revitalise zoology at Columbia University.

Logos for the Columbia Biological Series. From Joe Cain. 2001. The Columbia Biological Series, 1894-1974: a bibliographic note. Archives of Natural History 28: 353-366.
Logos for the Columbia Biological Series. Columbia University Press. (A) Original CBS logo, appearing on Osborn (1894) and Dean (1895), then reused for Dobzhansky (1937), Northrop (1939) and the first printing of Dobzhansky (1941 second edition); (B) Modified CBS logo on cover of Wilson (1896) and Osborn (1905 second edition). (C) Modified CBS logo appearing on volumes 6-10 and Wilson (1900 second edition); (D) Modified CBS logo appearing-following complaints about an error in the chromosome pattern during mitosis in original logo-on spines of Mayr (1942), Simpson (1944), second and third printings (both in 1947) of Dobzhansky (1941 second edition), and early printings of Stebbins (1950); (E) Modified CBS logo appearing only on Cohen (1968). No logos appear on CBS volumes 4 (third edition). 5, 14, 17-23, and 25. From Joe Cain. 2001. The Columbia Biological Series, 1894-1974: a bibliographic note. Archives of Natural History 28: 353-366.

Iconic artwork in the Columbia Biological Series

Artwork on the spines of Columbia Biological Series books has become iconic. The spine of Mayr’s 1942 volume shows a stylised version of mitosis in anaphase, as replicated chromosomes are separated into two daughter nuclei (D in the above “logos” figure).

In Cain (2001), I compared artwork used on books for the whole Columbia Biological Series, and I identified five different designs for this graphic. These displayed considerable variation and do not have one particular image that is common or dominant in the whole series. The stylised anaphase image did not function as a series logo.

Historians of evolutionary genetics often mention Dobzhansky’s fury with the error in the artwork for the 1937 first edition (and 1941 second edition first printing) of his Genetics and the Origin of Species (A in the “logos” figure). The error relates to the separating chromosomes; they show an inaccurate orientation for that moment in mitotic division.

The story of the development for this graphic element has not been investigated. We don’t know who created it, what involvement the authors had in decisions, or when decisions were made to change it.

Biodynamica journal volume 1 (1934-1938) numbers 1-33
Biodynamica was published by Basile J. Luyet. (1897-1974) The full journal title was, Biodynamica: A Scientific Journal for the Elaboration and the Experimental Study of Working Hypotheses on the Nature of Life.

Biodynamica: a scientific journal

A remarkably similar graphic was in circulation through the journal, Biodynamica. This was published in Normandy, Missouri, USA, from October 1934. Formally, Biodynamica: a scientific journal for the elaboration and the experimental study of working hypotheses on the nature of life (ISSN 0006-3010), a journal focused on biochemistry and biophysics. The mitotic bundle in metaphase is represented in stylised form on the title page of the first bound volume, covering 1934-1938.

Biodynamica’s founder and editor was Basile Joseph Luyet (1897-1974), a Swiss-born, ordained Catholic priest with a research interest in human cell biology and biophysics as they related to death, dying, and freezing. He was a keen advocate of cryobiology (Merman 1975; Saparelli et al 1997). After short periods at University of Geneva, Yale, and the Rockefeller Institute in New York, Luyet worked as Professor of Biology at St Louis University 1936-1955 (Luyet 1975).

Luyet launched Biodynamica in 1934, when at the Rockefeller Insitute. He was the journal’s only editor for 40 years, between 1934 and 1974. He did enlist the assistance of co-editors throughout.

Biodynamica was published irregularly, with 242 numbers in 11 volumes between 1934 and 1973. A complete index is not available. Some content from the journal was repackaged into single-theme anthologies. The overwhelming theme of most contributions was cryobiology. Luyet contributed on a majority of papers in the journals. The mitotic bundle image does not appear on title pages of later volumes (comparing volumes 8 (1958-61) and 9 (1962-65).

I don’t know what the historical connection is between these two images. I don’t know if this is anything other than a coincidence. The similarity is striking.


Note: The featured image at the top of this post has been colourised. The original appeared in black on white as in the “Biodynamica was published…” image above.