Personal profile

Biography

I began my PhD at the University of St Andrews in September 2021 under the supervision of Professor Aileen Fyfe in the School of History and Dr James Purdon in the School of English. My project, funded by the St Leonard’s World-Leading St Andrews Doctoral Scholarship, investigates questions of knowledge creation and communication within and between communities of scientists, orchardists, and civil servants in Canada, New Zealand, and the United States through a case study of the crop disease Fireblight between the years 1880-1939.

 

I first came to St Andrews in 2016, when I began my undergraduate degree in History. I graduated in 2020 with First-Class honours and the Dean’s List Award. I then embarked on my MLitt degree, also at St Andrews, focusing on transnational history and the history of science, graduating with a Distinction and the Dean's List Award in 2021.

 

In addition to my studies at St Andrews, my interest in the history of agriculture and plant science was fostered by my extra-curricular work with the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) at the University of York. While at CNAP, I conducted in-depth research into environmental pollution caused by explosives, focusing mainly on the United States. This was shared with project collaborators at the Cold Regions Research & Environmental Laboratory, US Army Corps of Engineers. More recently, I collated data and developed a report around the use of transgenic plants to remediate explosives-contaminated land, and the likelihood of the deregulation of these plants by the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This white paper report was sent to an agency of the United States Department of Defence (ESTCP) who were funding the project.

Research overview

My thesis utilises the orchard disease ‘Fireblight’ as a means to explore the various communities involved in the creation and communication of horticultural knowledge in the Anglo-world (particularly Canada and New Zealand) between 1880-1939.  In the nineteenth century, Fireblight ravaged orchards in the United States and Canada, swiftly becoming endemic. In 1919, it spread to New Zealand, the first time it was recorded outside North America. Studying Fireblight enables us to shift the focus of histories of imperial horticulture and agricultural science from Britain’s tropical colonies to the dominions, and into a wider ‘Anglo-world' in which the British state was far less involved in directing scientific research. By investigating how the various communities of scientists, fruitgrowers, and civil servants, in Canada, the United States, and New Zealand, developed their understandings of how to deal with this culturally and biologically distinctive crop disease, this thesis explores both how each community developed a consensus, and also how knowledge moved between these communities. Each of these heterogenous groups had to navigate the interplay of practical and theoretical scientific knowledge concerning Fireblight in their efforts to claim expertise. The fruitgrowing communities and scientific institutions of the United States and Canada grew up with Fireblight, and expertise and experience was shared between both communities. In contrast, when the disease reached New Zealand, the relative infancy of the fruitgrowing sector meant civil servants and government scientists could claim greater expertise than fruitgrowers. Thus, the contrast between North America and New Zealand illustrates not only that scientists, fruitgrowers, and civil servants were all involved in shaping knowledge creation and communication practices, albeit with different priorities, but that the relationships between those communities depended on place and time.  

Teaching activity

MO1008 Themes in Late Modern History

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