Coding Sequences: A History of Sequence Comparison Algorithms as a Scientific Instrument


Sequence comparison algorithms are sophisticated pieces of software that compare and match identical or similar regions of DNA, RNA, or protein sequence. This paper examines the origins and development of these algorithms from the 1960s to the 1990s. By treating this software as a kind of scientific instrument used to examine sets of biological objects, the paper shows how algorithms have been used as different sorts of tools and appropriated for different sorts of uses according to the disciplinary context in which they were deployed. These particular uses have made sequences themselves into different kinds of objects.