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Doctoral studies > PhD dissertations UAB

Xavier Calvó Monreal
Els primers anys de la biologia molecular a Catalunya, sabers i tècniques: l'Escola Estructuralista de Joan Antoni Subirana i Jaume Palau
Supervisor/s: María Jesús Santesmases
Date of defense: 10-09-2009

This thesis contributes to the history of the recent development of molecular biology in Barcelona. It focuses on an influential research group led by Joan Antoni Subirana and Jaume Palau. Their trajectories, their training abroad, the mechanisms by which defined their scientific interests and research agendas as well as the processes by which they acquired their skills and test their career ambitions are analized in  the context of the Spanish academic community in the 1960s and early 1970s.
The study provides keys to understand which factors were involved in the emergence of a working group. The choice of the group organized by Subirana and Palau lies on the influence they had in Spain, the recognition of their work both in Spain and abroad and the pioneering nature of the work they did.
For the first time this thesis access to unpublished documentation sources like the personal files from Joan Antoni Subirana and some archive material from Jaume Palau. Their contributions have a strong identity: the two scientists pioneered and introduced in Spain the techniques which allowed the study of biological macromolecules, from the physical chemistry to the X-ray diffraction. This dissertation deals with the processes by which the two young scientists and their graduates were trained and how research projects for the identification and characterization of histones and cell structures in the nucleus, were connected with the research on structure and function of chromosomes, through the participation of scientists in both foreign and international networks, in order to exchange recognition, knowledge and practices.
This thesis handles archive documentation, detailed analysis of the group's publications and interviews with scientists and technicians. The methodology, including historical and sociological studies of very recent history of science, is based on published works by foreign authors on research groups and communities that emerged in disciplinary research centres and universities in other countries. Thus, the research for this thesis and the manuscript presented as a result are completely updated and performed in contact with some of the authors quoted. Particularly, it relates to the knowledge, techniques and strategies of academic knowledge produced from the inter-war period until the 1970s.
The tools, techniques and research subjects are central to the story and introduces a further type of analysis that is part of the studies on the material culture of science, giving an account of the details of the laboratory work involved in the production of knowledge.
In order to reconstruct the recent history of scientific practices and research, this thesis also includes an extensive study of the interactions between scientists, biological molecules, policy instruments and funding research.