OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Innovation and Art in Fruit Topic of Lecture at OSU

03/20/2008

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Daniel J. Kevles will discuss “The Apples of Our Eyes: Innovation, Art, and Ownership in American Fruits” in a public lecture set for 7 p.m., April 10, at Oregon State University’s LaSells Stewart Center.

The event is the sixth of seven lectures in the 2007-08 OSU series, “Food for Thought: History, Technology, Gastronomy.”

One aspect of Kevles’s lecture focuses on watercolor illustrations as a historical means of identifying new fruits. This topic is of special interest in Corvallis, which is the location of the NCGR, the National Clonal Germplasm Repository, (www.ars.usda.gov/pwa/corvallis/ncgr), of the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. The NCGR-Corvallis maintains a globally diverse gene bank of fruit plants and seeds, and it collaborates with the National Agricultural Library on a web site project which features NAL’s watercolors, including watercolors of fruit crops preserved at NCGR-Corvallis.

As Kevles notes, innovation in fruits turned from a pastime of gentlemanly amateurs into a commercial business by the middle of the 19th century. The innovators grew eager to obtain what they increasingly termed the rights of “originators,” or what we recognize today as intellectual property protection (I)P, for their new fruits. Yet, how could the innovators uniquely identify their inventions? Special names were inadequate, since nothing prevented a thief from selling a fruit under a different name, and verbal descriptions were inevitably inexact. A number of innovators thus tried to protect their fruits more precisely in colored lithographs and watercolors.

Kevles, the Stanley Woodward Professor of History at Yale University, teaches and writes about issues in science and society. He is writing a book on the history of innovation and ownership in the stuff of life. His previous works include “The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science and Character” and “In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity.” He has also published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in scholarly and popular journals such as The New York Times, the New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and The New Yorker.

This year’s “Food for Thought” series of seven public lectures is sponsored by the Horning Endowment in the Humanities and the Outreach in Biotechnology Program, with support from the Wait and Lois Rising Lectureship Fund and the OSU History Department. Events are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the History Department at 541-737-8560 or visit www.oregonstate.edu/cla/history/lectures/horning/07_08.php.