Kara W. Swanson, JD, PhD, has been named the 2020 Arthur Molella Distinguished Fellow at the Lemelson Center. Swanson is a Professor of Law and Affiliate Professor of History at Northeastern University in Boston. While in residence at the Center in early 2021, Swanson will work on her project, “Inventing Citizens: Race, Gender, and Patents.”
Who is an American? In her upcoming book, Inventing Citizens: Race, Gender, and Patents, Swanson reveals the surprising role of invention in answering that question. Her research analyzes the growing centrality of inventive ability to American national identity during the early republic, as Americans simultaneously build a modern democracy and a new type of patent system. She then explores how those excluded from full citizenship made patents into potent political tools. White women activists and African American leaders argued that patents issued to their group members proved that they had the ability to exercise full civil rights. By focusing on marginalized groups, Inventing Citizens underscores the inseparability of race, gender, and ability from the history of technology as well as the importance of invention and patents to American political and intellectual history, in a narrative that stretches from the antebellum period to the present.
Professor Swanson is an accomplished scholar, legal practitioner and scientist whose chief interests are in intellectual property law, gender and sexuality, the history of science, medicine, and technology and legal history. Before joining Northeastern University, she was the Berger-Howe Visiting Fellow in Legal History at Harvard Law School and associate professor at Drexel University School of Law. In addition to her numerous publications in law reviews and peer-reviewed journals, Swanson published a book on property in the human body in 2014, in which she uses the history of law and medicine to explore contemporary debates in the use of body parts. The book, Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk and Sperm in Modern America, was published by Harvard University Press.
Trained as a biochemist and molecular biologist at Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley, she earned her PhD in the history of science from Harvard University in 2009. Before entering law school, Swanson was a published research scientist.
After graduating from law school, she served as an associate at Dechert, where she maintained an intellectual property law practice and was involved in drafting and negotiating technology licenses, advising biotech and computer services and software start-ups on protection of their inventions and drafting and prosecuting patents as a registered patent attorney.
Visit https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/bio/kara-w-swanson-phd/ for more on Kara Swanson’s impressive career. We look forward to welcoming her to the Lemelson Center!