Nicholas Blanchard

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of History
Oregon State University

2009 to 2010
Dissertation Research Fellow

Domestication: The Culture of a Science in the 20th Century

Abstract. If Charles Darwin failed in his analogy between the breeder’s art and the actions of blind nature to bridge the divide between nature and artifice, he was at least successful in inspiring work on either side. Darwin’s analogy emphasized the plasticity of forms, particularly animal breeds, under domestication. The attendant changes, recognized as morphological, physiological, behavioral, and genetic by the early 20th century, attracted the attention of scientists from their respective fields of research. From these studies of domestication, came new ideas about the evolution of body as well as of mind and the realization that the two may be inextricably tied. Domestication study not only contributed to the rise of interdisciplinary fields such as behavior genetics and physiological psychology, it demanded their expedient growth. In many instances, these new studies led to speculation about that most “eminently domesticated animal,” man, and his own changes in civilization’s protective embrace. Here is a report on his work.