1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · People

Dr. Berris Charnley

Egenis Research Fellow


01392 725125


01392 724676






Byrne House


My first degree was an International BSc in Genetics at the Universities of Leeds and South Carolina. In 2005 I completed an MA in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds; my research dissertation focused on the historical construction of British food safety regulations in the 19th century. I have worked as a tutor and lecturer, constructing and delivering a range of modules including history and philosophy of psychology, philosophy of science and, of course, history of genetics and biology.

My PhD thesis, "Agricultural Science and the Emergence of a Mendelian System in Britain 1880-1930", focused on the emergence of a technological system created by a small group of early geneticists (known as Mendelians in the period) such as William Bateson and Rowland Biffen. Biffen and Bateson, like many other Mendelians, worked within agricultural research settings in the south east of England in the early years of the 20th century. The thesis follows their efforts to create new useful agricultural organisms which would, they hoped, revolutionise farming practice. Following this aspect of early Mendelian work reveals quite clearly that genetics, right from the discipline’s emergence, has always been partly conceptualised as a tool for effecting change in the human-built world.

In 2008 I helped establish the IPBio Network. This is an international group of scholars with a shared research interest in the history of intellectual property in the biosciences and its relevance to current policy. The network's participants hail from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds including law, philosophy, history, sociology and science studies. The network seeks to encourage an interdisciplinary and intersectoral conversation on the past, present and future of IP in the biosciences. To date several public events (including an international symposium and public seminar) have been organised and videos of these events made available through the Network’s homepage, www.ipbio.org.

At Egenis I will be working closely with John Dupré and Sabina Leonelli, establishing new research projects investigating contemporary developments in post-genomic bioscience, plant science and the use of model organisms in knowledge production. I will also be developing my research interests in the history of genetics, food safety and intellectual property (in my thesis I argued that a lack of intellectual property rights in plants in the early 20th century was an important feature of the context in which new Mendelian varieties were distributed).



Charnley, B., 'Experiments in Empire-Building: Mendelian genetics as a global agricultural enterprise, 1900-1930', Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science (forthcoming 2012).

Charnley, B. and Radick, G., 'Intellectual Property, Plant Breeding and the Making of Mendelian Genetics', Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science (forthcoming 2012).

Charnley, B., 'Seeds without Patents: Science and Morality in British Plant Breeding in the Long Nineteenth Century', Revue Economique (in press 2011).

Charnley, B., 'Rowland Biffen, Little Joss and Yeoman: looking back at two successes behind the birth of NIAB in 1919', Landmark, May 2009; 3-4.

Charnley, B., 'Arguing over Adulteration: The success of the Analytical Sanitary Commission', Endeavour, 2008, 32; 129-133.

Book chapters

Charnley, B., 'Mendelism in British Agricultural Science, 1900-1930: "Systematised plant breeding"', in Dutfield, G. and Arapostathis, S. (eds.), Knowledge Management and Intellectual Property: Concepts, Actors and Practices from Past to Present. Cheltenham, Edward Elgar (forthcoming 2012).

Charnley, B. and Radick, G., “Plant Breeding and Intellectual Property Before and After the Rise of Mendelism: The Case of Britain”, in Kevles, D. J. et al. (eds.), Living Properties: Making Knowledge and Controlling Ownership in Modern Biology, Berlin, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 2010, pp. 51-55.

Reviews and other publications

Charnley, B., Review of Kingsbury, N., Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding in Technology and Culture. (forthcoming 2011)

Charnley, B., Review of Pauly, P.J., Fruits and Plains: The Horticultural Transformation of America and Olmstead A.L. and Rhode, P.W., Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development in British Journal for the History of Science, 2010, 43; 308-309.

Charnley, B., 'Media Coverage of Genetic Issues - A Model of Current Coverage', Biolog-e, 2004, 2:18-101.