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Helen Anne Curry

Peter Lipton Lecturer in History of Modern Science and Technology

I am a Senior Lecturer in the history of science. I joined the Department in September 2012, having received my PhD in History from Yale University in May 2012.

My book Evolution Made to Order: Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth Century America (University of Chicago Press, 2016) traces the history of several early technologies used to modify genes and chromosomes, including their development as research tools in genetics and evolutionary biology, their application as novel methods of plant breeding, and their celebration in American popular culture as means of engineering life. You can learn more in a review of the book that was published in Science in November 2016.

My current research considers the history of global conservation, in particular efforts made to preserve the genetic diversity of agricultural crop species through the practice of seed banking. This work has been supported by the Rockefeller Archive Center and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities at the University of Cambridge. It will be the focus of a Wellcome Trust Seed Award in 2016–17 and CRASSH ProFutura Scientia Fellowship in 2017–20. You can watch me talk about aspects of this research in a short film produced by the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute.

I am a fellow and director of studies in the History and Philosophy of Science at Churchill College.

Research interests

History of 20th and 21st century science and technology, including especially biology and biotechnology; the history of agriculture, horticulture and gardening; the history of conservation and environmentalism; global environmental history.

Books

Evolution Made to Order: Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth-Century America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Research articles

'From Working Collections to the World Germplasm Project: Agricultural Modernization and Genetic Conservation at the Rockefeller Foundation'History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 39, no. 5 (June 2017), special issue on 'New Perspectives in the History of the Twentieth Century Life Sciences', ed. Kärin Nickelsen and Robert Meunier. [OA Repository.]

'Breeding Uniformity and Banking Diversity: The Genescapes of Industrial Agriculture, 1935–1970', Global Environment 10, no. 1 (April 2017), special issue on 'Manufacturing Landscapes: Nature and Technology in Environmental History', ed. Helmuth Trischler and Don Worster. [OA Repository.]

'Atoms in Agriculture: A Study of Scientific Innovation between Technological Systems'Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 46 (2016): 119–153. [OA Repository.]

'Speeding Up Evolution: X-Rays and Plant Breeding in the United States, 1925–1935', New Perspectives on the History of Life Sciences and Agriculture, edited by Denise Phillips and Sharon Kingsland (Dordrecht: Springer Verlag, 2015): 459–478.

'From Garden Biotech to Garage Biotech: Amateur Experimental Biology in Historical Perspective', British Journal for the History of Science 47 (2014): 539–565.

'Radiation and Restoration; or, How Best to Make a Blight-Resistant Chestnut Tree', Environmental History 19 (2014): 217–238.

'Industrial Evolution: Mechanical and Biological Innovation at the General Electric Research Laboratory', Technology and Culture 54 (2013): 746–781.

'Naturalizing the Exotic and Exoticising the Naturalized: Horticulture, Natural History and the Rosy Periwinkle', Environment and History 18 (2012): 343–365.

'Making Marigolds: Colchicine, Mutation Breeding, and Ornamental Horticulture, 1937–1950'Making Mutations: Objects, Practices, Contexts, edited by Luis Campos and Alexander von Schwerin (Preprints of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, no. 393, March 2010): 259–284.

Short articles

'The Rockefeller Foundation and the Conservation of Genetic Diversity in Agricultural Crops', Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports, 2016.

'X-ray Lilies and Atomic Marigolds'The Conversation, 24 May 2016.

'Restoring the American Chestnut Tree in the Atomic Age'Journal of the American Chestnut Foundation 27, no. 4 (July/August 2013): 24–26. 

'Tomato Seeds in Space: NASA Outreach and Science Education in the Shuttle Era'Endeavour 34 (2010): 173–180.

Book reviews

'Extension and Experiment: The Politics of Modern Agricultural Science', essay review of Sigrid Schmalzer, Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016) and Tiago Saraiva, Fascist Pigs: Technoscientific Organisms and the History of Fascism (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016), in press, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, available online 4 April 2017.

'The Beauty of Botanicals', review of Richard Mabey, The Cabaret of Plants (New York: Norton, 2016) in Science 351, no. 6271 (22 January 2016): 346.

Review of Kendra Smith-Howard, Pure and Modern Milk: An Environmental History Since 1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) in H-Environment Roundtable Reviews 5, no. 4 (20 July 2015).

'The Living Element', review of Luis A. Campos, Radium and the Secret of Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015) in Science 348, no. 6242 (26 June 2015): 1435.

Review of Sally Gregory Kohlstedt and David Kaiser (eds.), Science and the American Century: Readings from Isis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), in Social History of Medicine 27, no. 1 (2014): 183–185.

Review of Audra Wolfe, Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in the Cold War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), published on American Science (americanscience.blogspot.com), 12 May 2013.

Helen Anne Curry

On leave for 2017–2020.