Helen Anne Curry

Kranzberg Professor

Member Of:
  • School of History and Sociology
Email Address:
hacurry@gatech.edu
Related Links:

Overview

I’m the Melvin Kranzberg Professor in History of Technology in the School of History and Sociology at Georgia Tech. I research and teach the history of recent science and technology, especially as it relates to food and agriculture.

Since August 2020, I’ve led the project From Collection to Cultivation: Historical Perspectives on Crop Diversity and Food Security, funded by the Wellcome Trust. This team of researchers is re-writing the history of how today’s food crops came to be. The project is based in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, where I worked from 2012–2022. You can follow the team's progress on our research blog.

From Collection to Cultivation has its origins in my study of history of efforts to conserve diverse varieties of food crops. This history was the focus of a Pro Futura Scientia Fellowship from 2017–2020 and a Wellcome Seed Award from 2016–17. It is also the subject of my 2022 book, Endangered Maize: Industrial Agriculture and the Crisis of Extinction. You can learn more about this research from archived presentations on the history of seed banking and seed saving or open access publications on seed vaults, vegetable sanctuaries, and international crop conservation programs.

I've always been interested in the tools and techniques behind the foods we eat. My 2016 book Evolution Made to Order: Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth Century America traces the history of several early technologies used to modify genes and chromosomes, including their application as novel methods of plant breeding. You can learn more in a review of the book that was published in Science or my interview with the New Books Network. This research featured in the virtual reality game Seed, which allows players to tinker with plants and genes just like the amateur plant breeders I've written about.

While at the University of Cambridge, I collaborated with Nick Jardine, Emma Spary, and James Secord on Worlds of Natural History, an edited volume that charts the history of natural history, from Aztec accounts of hibernating hummingbirds to contemporary television spectaculars.

 

Areas of
Expertise:
  • Environmental History
  • History Of Agriculture
  • History Of Science, Technology, And Medicine

Selected Publications

Books

Journal Articles