In the mid-twentieth century, American plant breeders, frustrated by their dependence on natural variation in creating new crops and flowers, eagerly sought technologies that could extend human control over nature. Their search led them to celebrate a series of strange tools: an x-ray beam directed at dormant seeds, a drop of chromosome-altering colchicine on a flower bud, and a piece of radioactive cobalt in a field of growing crops. According to scientific and popular reports of the time, these mutation-inducing methods would generate variation on demand, in turn allowing breeders to genetically engineer crops and flowers to order. Creating a new crop or flower would soon be as straightforward as innovating any other modern industrial product.
In Evolution Made to Order, Helen Anne Curry traces the history of America’s pursuit of tools that could speed up evolution. It is an immersive journey through the scientific and social worlds of midcentury genetics and plant breeding and a compelling exploration of American cultures of innovation. As Curry reveals, the creation of genetic technologies was deeply entangled with other areas of technological innovation—from electromechanical to chemical to nuclear. An important study of biological research and innovation in America, Evolution Made to Orderprovides vital historical context for current worldwide ethical and policy debates over genetic engineering.
The central figure in the modernization of the U.S. Navy.
The career of Washington Irving Chambers spans a formative period in the development of the United States Navy: He entered the Naval Academy in the doldrum years of obsolete, often rotting ships, and left after he had helped like-minded officers convince Congress and the public of the need to adopt a new naval strategy built around a fleet of technologically advanced battleships. He also laid the groundwork for naval aviation and the important role it would play in the modern navy.
This work covers Chambers’s early naval career, his work at the new Office of Naval Intelligence, his participation in the Greeley Relief Expedition, and a survey for the projected isthmian canal through Nicaragua, before becoming the key advocate for naval modernization. As such, Chambers worked as a pioneering torpedo designer, supervised construction of the Maine, modernized the New York Navy Yard, and became a member of the first permanent faculty at the Naval War College.
During his long career, Chambers not only designed torpedoes, but also several warships, including a prototype Dreadnought-style battleship and a host of small devices that ranged from torpedo guidance systems to the first catapult for launching airplanes from ships. At the close of his career, Chambers purchased the navy’s first aircraft and founded its air arm. Working with Glenn Curtiss, Chambers guided a coalition of aviation enthusiasts and pioneers who popularized naval aviation and demonstrated its capabilities. Chambers arranged the first take-off and landing of an airplane from a ship and other demonstrations of naval aviation. Combined with his tireless advocacy for modernization, these contributions secured a place in naval and aviation history for the innovator.
A new version of capitalism, grounded in technology and science, is spawning new forms of corporate power and organization that will have major implications for the twenty-first century. Technological creativity is thereby turned into a commodity in new corporate regimes that are primarily oriented toward research and intellectual appropriation. This phenomenon is likely to have major social, economic, and political consequences, as the new corporatism becomes ever more intrusive and rapacious through its control over technology and innovation.
In his provocative book Technocapitalism, Luis Suarez-Villa addresses this phenomenon from the perspective of radical political economy and social criticism. Grounded in the premise that relations of power influence how human creativity and technology are exploited by the new corporatism, the author argues that new forms of democratic participation and resistance are needed, if the social pathologies created by this new version of capitalism are to be checked.
Considering the new sectors affected by technocapitalism, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, bioinformatics, and genomics, Suarez-Villa deciphers the common threads of power and organization that drive their corporatization. These new sectors, and the corporate apparatus set up to extract profit and power through them, are imposing standards, creating business models, molding social governance, and influencing social relations at all levels. The new reality they create is likely to affect most every aspect of human existence, including work, health, life, and nature itself.