Dr John Lidwell-Durnin

  • History of science (particularly the history of evolution and heredity)
  • Science and religion
  • History of racial science and eugenics
  • Charles Darwin

My research examines how scientific authorities and institutions employed the public as a source of evidence, particularly in support of theories on the laws of heredity. During the 19th century, arriving at an understanding of the laws of hereditary transmission was one of the most pressing goals of scientific enquiry, with applications and consequences in agriculture, medicine, and the family. Farms, plant nurseries, and even lunatic asylums were all viewed as crucial sites for the production of data and (in some cases) the conducting of experimentation.

In my most recent article, I look at how cultivation practices shared by nurserymen and plant breeders informed Darwin's theory of pangenesis and debates over the extent to which humans could take the reigns of nature and control hereditary transmission for their benefit.

More broadly, I am interested in environmental approaches to the history of science, particularly as to how changes in climate have shaped and informed ideas about the heritability of traits and characteristics. I have a forthcoming article on fears and anxieties over food security and plant breeding in the late 18th century, and am currently working on the interplay between climate and degeneration.

  • Inevitable Decay: Debates over Climate, Food Security, and Plant Heredity in Nineteenth-Century Britain

  • The production of a physiological puzzle: how Cytisus adami confused and inspired a century’s botanists, gardeners, and evolutionists

  • More
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