Daniel J. Kevles is Stanley Woodward Professor of History at Yale. His recent works include The Baltimore Case and he is currently completing a history of intellectual property in plants, animals, and people.


The Genes You Can’t Patent

Newspapers showing front-page coverage of Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a preemptive double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer after genetic testing showed that she carried the abnormal BRCA1 gene, May 15, 2013
In a major decision issued on June 13, the US Supreme Court unanimously struck down the patents held by a biotechnology firm on the DNA comprising BRCA1 and BRCA2.1 These are the two genes that, in their abnormal forms, are known to dispose women to a dramatically heightened risk …

An American Passion Revealed

Beurre d’Aremberg pear; mid-nineteenth-century lithograph by the Amana Society, Iowa County, Iowa

Fruits and Plains: The Horticultural Transformation of America

by Philip J. Pauly
Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden on the South Lawn of the White House merits a double brava!—apart from calling attention to the nutritional value of eating fresh, organically grown vegetables, it honors their global origins. We are not only a nation of immigrant peoples and cuisines. We are also a country …

Martyred by Monsters

The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin’s Persecutionof One of the Great Scientistsof the Twentieth Century

by Peter Pringle
Nikolai Vavilov’s life would make a chilling film about how visionary science and intrepid intellectual adventure in Soviet Russia blackened into a vicious persecution and a martyr’s death. Educated in the years following the rediscovery, in 1900, of Gregor Mendel’s laws of heredity in peas, Vavilov was by the 1920s …

The Poor Man’s Atomic Bomb

War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda

by Jonathan B. Tucker
All the major belligerents in World War I save one were party to the Hague Convention of 1899, whose signers had agreed “to abstain from the use of all projectiles the sole object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases.” The exception was the United States.