Between the farm and the clinic: agriculture and reproductive technology in the twentieth century

A one-day workshop, organised by Sarah Wilmot and Nick Hopwood, and funded by the Wellcome Trust, will be held in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge on Friday 29 April 2005.


The reproductive technologies that through the twentieth century were increasingly used to detach sex from reproduction continue to attract intense interest. But while the history, sociology and anthropology of reproductive medicine have been actively studied for several years, we have hardly begun to explore agriculture, the other major field of reproductive innovation, and its relations to medicine. The use of animal breeding as a resource for eugenics is clear and a rich body of research on the making of hormones has linked abattoirs with laboratories, pharmaceutical companies and clinics. Yet though Adele Clarke long ago highlighted the importance of the intersection of biology, medicine and agriculture in the making of the reproductive sciences, we still know very little about farms as sites of technological innovation in the reproduction of both other animals and human beings. This workshop aims to break new ground in two main ways. First, we want to promote work on the making, organization and communication of reproductive knowledge among experts and laypeople in agricultural settings. We hope to bring together agricultural history with methodological insights from the sociology and anthropology of science, technology and medicine. Second, we want to explore the networks linking animal breeding, reproductive science, experimental biology, clinical medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. How have, not just raw materials, but also technologies and discourses, circulated between farms, abattoirs, research laboratories and clinics? To what extent and in what ways have farm animals served as a testing ground for technologies, from hormones to artificial insemination and embryo transfer, that were later developed for humans?


Adele Clarke (University of California, San Francisco) ‘Reflections on reproductive sciences in agriculture in the U.S. and the U.K. since c. 1900’

Christopher Polge (University of Cambridge) ‘The Animal Research Station in Cambridge’

Sarah Wilmot (University of Cambridge) ‘From public service to artificial insemination: animal breeding science in early twentieth century Britain’

Abigail Woods (University of Manchester) ‘The farm as clinic: managing bovine infertility in wartime Britain’

Paul Brassley (University of Plymouth) ‘Beyond the dairy: the uptake of AI in other farming systems’

Naomi Pfeffer (London Metropolitan University) ‘”A milk round in reverse”: collecting urine from animals and humans’

John Clarke (University of Oxford) ‘The scientific study of reproduction and fertility in Britain, France and USA: the birth and growth of three learned societies’

Sarah Franklin (LSE) ‘Ovine imbrications: from the woolsack to the egg sac in Anglo-Australian sciences of sheep’

For more information, including a booking form, please visit <>.