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Conservation Research Institute



Historian of modern science and technology, particularly the life and environmental sciences and agricultural science and technology.


My 2016 book Evolution Made to Order: Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth Century America (University of Chicago Press) 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. 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. 


Key publications: 

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

Helen Anne Curry, '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.

Helen Anne Curry, '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.

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

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

Senior Lecturer


Departments and institutes: 
Research keywords: 
conservation biology
seed banks
genetic resources