The genetic revolution has come and gone. This essay is the first draft of an attempt to understand the modern legal history of a revolution which occurred, like the first English revolution, recalled in Christopher Hill’s memorable phrase, ‘in a fit of absence of mind’.1 And it has occurred in memorable times; times in which, as Eric Hobsbawm has suggested, a global concern with ethics appears to have become almost the defining stigmata of the late 20th century.2