By the mid-1980s nucleic-acid based methods were penetrating the farthest reaches of biological science, triggering rivalries among practitioners, altering relationships among subfields, and transforming the research front. This article delivers a "bottom up" analysis of that transformation at work in one important area of biological science, plant pathology, by tracing the "molecularization" of efforts to understand and control one notorious plant disease——the late blight of potatoes. It mobilizes the research literature of late blight science as a tool through which to trace the changing typography of the research front from 1983 to 2003. During these years molecularization intensified the traditional fragmentation of the late blight research community, even as it dramatically integrated study of the causal organism into broader areas of biology. In these decades the pathogen responsible for late blight, the oomycete Phytophthora infestans, was discovered to be undergoing massive, frightening, and still largely unexplained genetic diversification——a circumstance that lends the episode examined here an urgency that reinforces its historiographical significance as a casestudy in the molecularization of the biological sciences.
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