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From Mysore to Cambridge and back: The education of a groundnut breeder

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jats:secjats:titleSocietal Impact Statement</jats:title>jats:pStudies that show how empire influenced the development of plant genetics add to the established history of genetics and 20th‐century agricultural science. One approach to broadening this history is to consider the contributions of students studying abroad and their greater careers back home. Research agendas differed between and within institutions, much as they do today. This article explores the postgraduate education of an Indian groundnut breeder. It highlights the structural challenges faced by researchers at agricultural departments who sought promotion through education and examines the consequences for plant breeding and for farmers.</jats:p></jats:sec>jats:secjats:titleSummary</jats:title>jats:p<jats:list list-type="bullet"> jats:list-itemjats:pThrough the biography of V.K. Badami, this article contributes to debates about genetics and plant breeding in the history of science. Badami, an accomplished breeder in the Mysore Department of Agriculture, took a leave to study genetics at the University of Cambridge. His professors nearly failed him, yet Badami's groundnut breeding experiments proved influential for Indian farmers as well as advances in crop science. This history adds to the thesis that academic genetics varied in support of professional plant breeding by comparing institutional expections between Mysore and Cambridge.</jats:p></jats:list-item> jats:list-itemjats:pThe argument is developed by reading Badami's student records along with his groundnut breeding experiments in South India.</jats:p></jats:list-item> jats:list-itemjats:pThe study connects the disciplinary history of genetics to plant breeding for the British empire.</jats:p></jats:list-item> jats:list-itemjats:pBadami's experience at Cambridge is indicative of the power relationship between academic genetics and imperial plant breeding in the early 20th century. In this case, his commitments as an Indian agricultural officer conflicted with the discipline's devotion to quantitative analysis.</jats:p></jats:list-item> </jats:list></jats:p></jats:sec>


Publication status: Published


history of science, genetics, groundnuts, agriculture, crop breeding

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Wellcome Trust (217968/Z/19/Z)