Protective Pictures: The Role of the Image in Plant Patents (1930-1980)
I compared the visualisations used in early plant patents to those accompanying more recent utility patent applications, and demonstrated the shift of the requirement from pure description to explication of the underlying invention. The results showed how from colour photographs of new varieties to images of electrophoresis gels showing specific gene markers, images have taken on a more explicative role in patent applications. I tracked the changes in the patent illustration with respect to their accompanying text to ask: How do patent visuals fit into the longer history of representation in scientific practice? How has the role of the image in the patent changed with respect to innovations in the science of plants, patent law, and technologies of visualisation? I presented a poster of this research at the annual conference of the History of Science Society in 2014 and was awarded prize for Best Poster. This innovative approach to studying the history of intellectual property has garnered international attention and I was invited to present the resulting paper at the Cultivating Innovation: How (and How Not) to Think about Intellectual Property in Agriculture and Plant Science workshop organised by Gregory Radick and Graeme Gooday and held at the John Innes Centre, UK in 2015. This project was funded by the Mellon Research Initiative in Environments & Societies.
Forboding Fruit: Botanical Illustration as an Agent of Continuity
This paper examines the pomological water-colour paintings of Ellen Isham Schutt (1873-1955), which were rendered for the University of California from 1911 to 1915. Due to the perishability of plant products, and since colour photography had not yet been popularised, botanical illustration was integral to both the understanding, production and transmission of botanical knowledge. I showed how the effects of Schutt’s apple paintings that show the rot and mould from storage of apples at varying conditions are not only co-constituted but are also co-regulated by functioning as examples of Rheinberger’s “epistemic things.” I presented early versions of this paper at the conference Interruptions: Sciences, Feminisms, Knowledge at the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society, at the University of California, Berkeley, at the annual conference of the Society for Literature, Science and Art.
When Life Gives You Lemons: The Material Publication of Frank N. Meyer (1875-1919)
In this project, I explore how a radical re-envisioning of publication, that takes seriously live plants, gardens, and herbaria, changes the traditional understanding of credit in the history of science? I follow the work of a USDA agricultural explorer in finding and introducing plants of economic value to US. With Meyer as a case-study, I consider the role of the twentieth-century plant hunter to think about authorial politics and disciplinary credit in a moment of transitions. Link
“Creative Practices of Care: The Subjectivity, Agency and Affective Labor of Preparing Seeds for Long-term Banking” This article describes the creative labor practices that are produced by seed curators as they prepare the seeds for the ultimate storage at the largest seed bank of wild plants – the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership in West Sussex, England. I investigate how the complex interactions between the seeds and their carers produce knowledge about the seeds and hope for their futures. By following the seeds through the experimental care practices espoused by scientists involved in their maintenance from the moment seeds arrive at the bank until they are ready for storage, I study how seemingly mundane tasks radically influence how “life” is being prepared for the future. This article is a version of Chapter 3 in my dissertation and was workshopped at a seed banking conference at the University of Cambridge (2017). In April 2018, it was submitted for inclusion in a Special Issue: ‘Seeds for Survival’ in the journal of Culture, Agriculture, Food, and Environment.