Anahita Rouyan (Bologna): Scientific Nature Faking

Hugo de Vries's Mutation Theory and Plant Breeding in California, 1900-1914

20.10.2016 16:00 Uhr – 18:00 Uhr

wann: Donnerstag, 20. Oktober 2016, 16-18 Uhr

wo: Historicum, Schellingstr. 12, Raum K026

Vortrag im Rahmen des Oberseminars "Perspektiven der Wissenschaftsgeschichte"

The first decade of the twentieth century witnessed the emergence of novel evolutionary theories, among them Hugo de Vries's mutation theory that quickly became a scientific sensation in the United States.

American followers of de Vries popularized his mutation research using a progressive discourse which foregrounded practical applications of knowledge about plant genetics in agriculture. This message strongly resonated with Californian audiences that had been celebrating Luther Burbank's profitable breeding experiments.

The Californian press sensationalized the emergent practice of scientific plant breeding, describing its products as “freak fruits” and demonstrating the degree to which these early genetic experiments were incompatible with the authoritative understanding of nature advanced by the Californian preservation movement.

This talk seeks to demonstrate how the public accommodation of scientific knowledge about plant heredity had been contingent upon the interests of various parties involved in communicating de Vries's mutation theory to American audiences.