By Hub Zwart
International Encyclopedia of Social & Behavioral Sciences
2nd ed. Oxford Elsevier, 311-317.
The Human Genome Project (HGP) has been hailed as an important milestone in the history of science, in the history of humanity even, and as a project whose completion would not only transform the practice of medicine, but change forever the course of human history as well. By setting up a ﬂanking program devoted to anticipating and addressing the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomics, the HGP has had a substantial inﬂuence on the social sciences and humanities ﬁelds involved in studying contemporary science as well. In this article, the HGP is ﬁrst of all placed in a historical perspective (as a key chapter in the history of the life sciences as such). As to the history of the HGP proper (1990–2003), three stages are distinguished. Finally, the author assesses what the impact of the HGP has been, both for the life sciences as such and for the society in a broader sense. Although biomedical beneﬁts (in the form of new treatments, etc.) have been sparse (in comparison to the stellar expectations of the early years), the HGP did change the way we think about ourselves and our own history: Its ‘cultural’ relevance has been quite signiﬁcant.