Chicken Breeding: The Complex Transition from Traditional to Genetic Methods in the USA

  • Margaret E. DerryEmail author
Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 40)


This chapter considers the complex relationship between new scientific theory and breeding practices, from the late nineteenth century to the 1950s, with a focus on poultry breeding. Poultry breeders had developed sophisticated breeding methods by 1900, when Mendel’s work was rediscovered and began to be applied to agricultural production. The case of Raymond Pearl at the Maine agricultural station illustrates how attempts to impose the new science failed to persuade poultry breeders to change their practices. The work of L. C. Dunn illustrates how genetics moved away from practical concerns and into engagement with general problems of evolutionary biology in the 1920s. I then consider the role of government in encouraging breeding, building on the ambiguous legacy of the American Poultry Association. Changes within the egg-laying industry divided breeders from producers/growers, leaving the industry ripe for change by 1930. Innovations in maize genetics and population genetics provided crucial scientific advances that revolutionized poultry breeding in the 1940s. Corporate investment was critically important to this revolution. The relationship of science to breeding has to be understood in the context of changes not only within science but also in the industry itself over a half century.


Chicken breeding Leslie C. Dunn Egg-laying industry Maize genetics Mendelism Population genetics Poultry breeding Raymond Pearl Henry A. Wallace 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.CaledonCanada

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