HG Wells Annual Lecture: Arrival of the Fittest: Biology’s Imaginary Futures: 1900-1935

Wednesday 6th March, 5.15-6.45pm, Templeman Lecture Theatre


Biology’s Imaginary Futures: 1900–1935, Prof Jim Endersby (University of Sussex)
The claim that science can be used to create new plants to order and use them to feed the world is often made by today’s geneticists and biotechnology companies, but it was first made in the early twentieth century, during an explosion of excitement over the idea that evolution would soon be brought under control. One journalist claimed that the ‘marvellous gospel of plant-evolution’ was inspiring ‘a new literature’ that is ‘fresh, bright, helpful, more fascinating than any novel’. All kinds of writers – including scientists, feminists and socialists, and early science-fiction writers – were soon producing examples of this new literature. Many believed that recent breakthroughs in biology promised a new kind of utopia, which the award-winning historian, Jim Endersby, has christened a “biotopia”. The biotopians believed not only that biology promised new kinds of plants and animals, but also that new kinds of people could soon be built to order. Jim will explore the roots of these hopes, and their continuing influence, but will also argue that they might offer some surprising lessons for how we think about today’s environmental crisis.

Further details: Charlotte Sleigh c.l.sleigh@kent.ac.uk