Evolution Made To Order: Plant Breeding And Technological Innovation In Twentieth-century America

Hardcover | November 11, 2016

byHelen Anne Curry

not yet rated|write a review
In the mid-twentieth century, American plant breeders, frustrated by their dependence on natural variation in creating new crops and flowers, eagerly sought technologies that could extend human control over nature. Their search led them to celebrate a series of strange tools: an x-ray beam directed at dormant seeds, a drop of chromosome-altering colchicine on a flower bud, and a piece of radioactive cobalt in a field of growing crops. According to scientific and popular reports of the time, these mutation-inducing methods would generate variation on demand, in turn allowing breeders to genetically engineer crops and flowers to order. Creating a new crop or flower would soon be as straightforward as innovating any other modern industrial product.
 
 In Evolution Made to Order, Helen Anne Curry traces the history of America’s pursuit of tools that could speed up evolution. It is an immersive journey through the scientific and social worlds of midcentury genetics and plant breeding and a compelling exploration of American cultures of innovation. As Curry reveals, the creation of genetic technologies was deeply entangled with other areas of technological innovation—from electromechanical to chemical to nuclear. An important study of biological research and innovation in America, Evolution Made to Order provides vital historical context for current worldwide ethical and policy debates over genetic engineering.
 

Pricing and Purchase Info

$53.67 online
$58.50 list price (save 8%)
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25

From the Publisher

In the mid-twentieth century, American plant breeders, frustrated by their dependence on natural variation in creating new crops and flowers, eagerly sought technologies that could extend human control over nature. Their search led them to celebrate a series of strange tools: an x-ray beam directed at dormant seeds, a drop of chromosom...

Helen Anne Curry is the Peter Lipton Lecturer in History of Modern Science and Technology at the University of Cambridge.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:November 11, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022639008X

ISBN - 13:9780226390086

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of Evolution Made To Order: Plant Breeding And Technological Innovation In Twentieth-century America

Reviews

Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
 
Introduction
 
Part 1   Evolution by X-ray: The Industrialization of Biological Innovation
 
1          Mutation Theories
2          An Unsolved Problem
3          Speeding Up Evolution
4          X-rays in the Lab and Field
5          Industrial Evolution
 
Part 2   Tinkering with Chromosomes: Colchicine in the Lab and Garden
 
6          Artificial Tetraploidy
7          Evolution to Order
8          Better Evolution through Chemistry
9          Tinkering Technologists
10        The Flower Manufacturers
 
Part 3   Atoms for Agriculture: Evolution in a Large Technological System
 
11        Radiation Revisited
12        Mutation Politics
13        An Atomic-Age Experiment Station
14        Atomic Gardens
15        The Peaceful Atom in Global Agriculture
 
Epilogue
 
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index
 

Editorial Reviews

“Curry offers a fascinating historical journey through the American scientific and social worlds of induced-mutation work. Through extensive research, she convincingly establishes that biologists’ obsession with plant mutation breeding did not begin with molecular biology and recombinant DNA but, rather, with the tools of chemical mutagenesis and radiobiology. Her lively account resurrects unknown actors, important institutional contexts, and forgotten cultural fads, and her thoughtful consideration of the successes and failures of their collective scientific endeavors provides some much-needed historical context for current ethical and policy debates over genetic engineering. Evolution Made to Order is a narrative account that is both accessible and scholarly. It makes an important contribution to the historiographies of biology and technology, and treats with appropriate parity the roles of its scientific and amateur historical actors. It is, in a word, brilliant.”