Kara Swanson in gray blazer

Kara W. Swanson

Seidel Senior Fellow

Kara W. Swanson is a professor of law and affiliate professor of history at Northeastern University in Boston. Her scholarship examines historical intersections among law, science, medicine, and technology in the United States, with the goal of exploring the boundaries of citizenship, property, and intellectual property in law and society. Swanson’s research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, where she held the Arthur Molella Distinguished Fellowship. Her scholarship—published in both peer-reviewed journals and law reviews—has focused on the regulation of reproduction, markets in body products, the US patent system, and marginalized inventors.

Swanson’s previous publications have earned awards from the History of Science Society, the Society for the History of Technology, and the Association of American Law Schools, as well as the John Hope Franklin Prize from the Law and Society Association. Her first book, Banking on the Body:  The Market in Blood, Milk and Sperm in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2014), is a medicolegal history of property in the human body, as understood through the twentieth century history of bankable body products.

At the Science History Institute, Professor Swanson will be conducting research about inventing and inventors for her current book-in-progress tentatively titled Inventing Citizens: Race, Gender, and the United States Patent System. The book will explore the relationship between the celebration of American inventiveness and civil rights across U.S. history.