1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · People

Mr. Tarquin Holmes

Egenis Research Student


01392 725142


01392 724676






Byrne House


I have been a long-term resident at the University of Exeter, arriving in October 2007 to commit to a BA joint course in History and Philosophy, which I completed in summer 2010, being awarded a 2:1. I continued my studies at Masters level and completed my History and Philosophy of Biology MA in September 2011 with the award of a distinction. My dissertation topic was ‘The concept of wild-type in transmission genetics: Ideas of species, variation and environment amongst the early Mendelians’, and in October 2011 I began my Philosophy PhD course with the purpose of continuing where I had left off. My project is provisionally titled ‘‘Forces of return’: A philosophical history of ‘reversion’ and its conceptual place in the development of evolutionary biological thought’, and aims to build on and broadly contextualise my prior research into the history of hereditary thought.


'Model Organisms: Past, Present, Future: A Commentary on Jena Gayon's Model Organisms in Biology and Medicine', European Advanced Seminar for Philosophy and the Life Sciences: Models in In Vivo, Ex Vivo, In Vitro, In Silico, Geneva, 10 September 2012.

‘The Introduction of the Concept of Wild-Type into Early Transmission Genetics & its Persistence into the Present Day’ , SSIS PGR Conference, University of Exeter, 3-4 May 2012.

Research Experience

October 2011 onwards – Research Assistant to , Egenis, University of Exeter.

Research Interests

My main field of interest is the history of hereditary and evolutionary thought, particularly in relation to the extent of change and continuity between nineteenth and twentieth century biology. My research centres on the concept of reversion – the reappearance of ancestral traits – which originated amongst plant and animal breeders in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries but then migrated into scientific discourse, in part through Darwin’s use of breeders’ testimonies as evidence for his theories on evolution and heredity. By studying how reversion disseminated into different areas of biology, in particular genetics, evolution and developmental biology, and how it developed within these separate fields, I hope to both establish a case-study of its epidemiology and endurance and to utilise it as a tracking device whereby changes and continuities in its articulation can be correlated with developments within broader frameworks of biological thought. I hope to be able, through abstraction from the status of reversion to the status of its surrounding framework, to get ‘under the skin’ of some of the overlying narratives of the history of biology and thus judge their value based on this particular example. I am also exploring the epistemological role of the concept of reversion, especially in terms of its use in the modelling of heredity and evolution, notably in late nineteenth century population models, where it has been perceived as acting as an obstacle to further understanding (see Jean Gayon’s Darwinism’s Struggle for Survival), and in the early twentieth century when geneticists constructed ‘wild-type’ laboratory lineages of model organisms on the basis of their tendency to follow Mendel’s laws, of which reversion is a normative consequence. The tension between reversion as a ‘lawful’ phenomenon and reversion as ‘subversive’ I have found to be strongly exhibited within this history of its epistemological use. Additionally, I am investigating the extent to which diachronic and synchronic perspectives on biological time in evolution, heredity and development result in different salient objects, concepts and objectives, and in what direction biology is currently moving, with reversion again as my example.