FlyBase: communicating Drosophila genetics on paper and online, 1970–2000


  • Dr Jenny Bangham

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

Dr Bangham is tracing the early history of ‘FlyBase’, an online genetic database that orders and communicates genetic information about the fruit fly Drosophila. 

Established in the early 1990s, FlyBase was one of the earliest model organism databases and remains an essential routine tool for the genetics community. Originally in the form of a newsletter, Drosophila Information Service, and book-format mutant catalogues, FlyBase was representative of the transformation of biology into the highly collaborative, data-intensive, richly funded science it is today. 

Its history contributes to our understanding of that transformation, and captures the rise of genomics, the emergence of Drosophila as a model for biomedical research, the early days of the internet, and the publication of the Drosophila melanogaster genome sequence in 2000. By exploring the politics, infrastructures and professional expertise produced by database technologies, Dr Bangham is investigating what difference these have made to biology and biomedicine.