2 volumes of transcripts of a hearing by Cambridge City Council on the uses of recombinant DNA technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, 1976
In the early 1970s, genetic engineering was seen as an exciting new research tool by some scientists. Restrictions were placed on its use by the scientific community to prevent experiments that could create potentially harmful new bacteria and viruses. The general public became fearful of the possibility of human genetic engineering and new diseases.
When Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, sought permission in 1976 to adapt a laboratory to carry out experiments in genetic engineering, the city council held public hearings. These hearings were the first opportunity for many non-scientists to debate such work publicly. In an age before the web the discussions were circulated by making available carbon copies of the transcripts. These quickly ran out and then photocopies were provided. Ultimately the laboratory modification was permitted, but more tightly regulated work was prohibited within the city.
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