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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


How do scientific communities come together to produce community resources – such as repositories, newsletters, and databases? In what ways do these technologies shape the practices and politics of doing science?

This project traces the early history of 'FlyBase', an online genetic database that today still orders and communicates genetic information about the fruit fly Drosophila. Established in the early 1990s, FlyBase was one of the earliest model organism databases and remains an essential routine tool for the genetics community. Taking on tasks previously accomplished by the newsletter Drosophila Information Service and book-format mutant catalogues, FlyBase was representative of the transformation of biology into the highly collaborative, data-intensive, richly funded science it is today. Its history contributes to our understanding of that transformation, and captures the rise of genomics, the emergence of Drosophila as a model for biomedical research, the early days of the Internet, and the publication of the Drosophila melanogaster genome sequence in 2000. By exploring the politics, infrastructures and professional expertise produced by database technologies, this project investigates what difference these have made to biology and biomedicine.

This project is funded by the Wellcome Trust.


Jenny Bangham