Kara W. SwansonProfessor of Law
Yale University, BS 1987
University of California, Berkeley, MA 1988
University of California, Berkeley, JD 1992
Harvard University, PhD 2009
Mail: 416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: (617) 373-8288
Fax: (617) 373-5056
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. In 2015, she received one of Northeastern’s most prestigious prizes, the Robert D. Klein University Lectureship, which is awarded to a member of the faculty across the university who has obtained distinction in his or her field of study.
Professor 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, among other funding organizations. Professor Swanson’s scholarship has earned multiple awards, including honors from the Society for the History of Technology, the Association of American Law Schools, and the Iowa Historical Society. Her current book project investigates the relationship between the patent system and American nationhood and citizenship by examining the ways in which women and African Americans, in support of their movements for full political and social equality, sought to demonstrate their inventive capacities. In 2016-17, Professor Swanson will be in residence at the Massachussetts Historical Society as an NEH Long-Term Fellow.
Before coming to Northeastern, Professor Swanson 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, Professor 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, Professor 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. She clerked for Judge Cecil F. Poole, Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge William H. Orrick Jr., US District Court for the Northern District of California.
Fields of Expertise
- Copyright Law
- History of Science, Medicine and Technology.
- Intellectual Property
- Legal History
- Patent Law
- Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2014).
- “Rubbing Elbows and Blowing Smoke: Gender, Class and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Patent Office,” Isis: A Journal of the History of Science (forthcoming).
- “The Doctor’s Dilemma: Paternalisms in the Medicolegal History of Assisted Reproduction and Abortion,” 43 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 312 (2015).
- “Intellectual Property and Gender: Reflections on Accomplishments and Methodology,” 24 American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law (2015).
- “The End of Men, Again,” 93 Boston University Law Review Annex 26 (2013).
- “Intellectual Property and Public Health – A White Paper,” 7 Akron Intellectual Property Journal (2014) (co-author).
- “Adultery by Doctor: Artificial Insemination,1890-1945,” 87 Chicago-Kent Law Review 591 (2012).
- “The Birth of the Sperm Bank,” 71 The Annals of Iowa 241 (2012).
- “Getting a Grip on the Corset: Gender, Sexuality and Patent Law,” 23 Yale Journal of Law & Feminism 57 (2011).
- “Food and Drug Law as Intellectual Property Law: Historical Reflections,” 2011 Wisconsin Law Review 331 (2011)
- “Review of Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Intellectual Property, 1800-1830,” 1 IP Law Book Review 1 (2010).
- “The Emergence of the Professional Patent Practitioner,” 50 Technology and Culture 519 (2009).
- “Human Milk as Technology and Technologies of Human Milk: Medical Imaginings in the Early 20th Century United States,” 37 Women's Studies Quarterly 21 (2009).
- “Biotech in Court: A Legal Lesson on the Unity of Science,” 37 Social Studies of Science 357 (2007).
- “Patents, Politics and Abortion,” in Intellectual Property Law in Context: Law and Society Perspectives on IP, ed. W.T. Gallagher, et al. (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press).
- “Authoring an Invention: Patent Production in the Nineteenth-Century United States,” Making and Unmaking Intellectual Property: Creative Production in Legal and Cultural Perspective, ed. M. Biagioli et al. (University of Chicago Press, 2011).
- ““Organ Marketplaces” of the Future," Innovation Hub (June 18, 2015).
- “Egg-Freezing Shindigs Aren’t Like Tupperware Parties,” Slate.com (November 18, 2014).
- “Banks of Blood and Sperm,” The Atlantic (July 31, 2014).
- “The Trouble with Organ Banking,” The Boston Globe (June 1, 2014).
- “3Qs: Banking on the Body,” news@Northeastern (May 9, 2014).
- “The Surprisingly Engrossing History of Patent Examiners,” Slate.com (May 7, 2014).
- “Kara Swanson on blood banks, commodification, and "de-propertization,” K. Nelson, history + law +tech ... in propia persona (November 18, 2012).
- “Kara Swanson: Feminism, Corsets and IP,” Written Description (May 5, 2011).