King's College London
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DNA: the King's story


Evening Standard - Wilkins storyEvening Standard - Wilkins storyThe emergence of the science of genetics has raised numerous ethical questions, not least surrounding recent advances in stem cell research and human cloning.

Less controversial, perhaps, has been its use in genetic fingerprinting now routinely employed to identify criminals, while the recent decoding of the human genome holds out the prospect of improved medical therapies and more effectively targeted treatments.

Wilkins cartoonWilkins cartoonEthical concerns arose soon after the discoveries of the 1950s. Maurice Wilkins took the lead in exploring the issue of the role of science in society in classes at King’s College, and not least via a course in the Biophysics Department entitled 'The Social Impact of the Biosciences'.

Wilkins was energetic in examining the responsibilities of the scientist when confronted with complex and controversial research. With this in mind he was elected the first President of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science.

The Society debated such issues as in-vitro fertilisation and the potential use of genetics in biological warfare but also sought to promote a wider understanding of science.

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