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Genetics, statistics, and regulation at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, 1919-1969

Berry, Dominic Joseph (2014) Genetics, statistics, and regulation at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, 1919-1969. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany, founded in 1919 and still operating today from its same Cambridge headquarters, is one of Britain’s oldest agricultural science institutes. Using the extensive and hitherto unexamined archive materials held by NIAB, this thesis offers both a new history of the Institute from 1919 to 1969, and an analysis of that history in the light of wider historiographies of science. It is well known that state patronage of science in Britain entered a new phase towards the end of the nineteenth century. The number of national laboratories, organisations, and institutions dedicated to scientific work grew rapidly, as did the number of professional scientists. The agricultural sciences and their institution’s benefited as much, if not more, from the state’s newfound interest in science, and yet hardly anything at all is known about them. This historiographical oversight is all the more troubling when one considers the changes that took place within British agriculture and the global food industry at this time. The thesis makes three important new points in particular. Firstly, that scientific regulatory bodies (often marginalized in preference for basic research centres) offer a valuable new perspective for historians interested in relations between science and the state. Secondly, that the techniques used during regulation and assessment (which draw upon the latest scientific developments and theories), can reveal a great deal about an institution’s social location. Finally, appreciating the perspective on variation and heredity held by agricultural scientists and plant breeders, one which will be shown to be quite different from more general biologists, offers solutions and problems for contemporary historiography on issues ranging from the impact of Mendelism on plant breeding to the history of plant patenting.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-841-1
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.634288
Depositing User: Leeds CMS
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2015 16:23
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2015 13:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7813

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