genetic engineering n.

the alteration of the genome of an organism by laboratory techniques, esp. by the insertion, alteration, or removal of a gene

In early quotes: the production of desirable genotypes by selective breeding; the application of eugenics. In SF, the coinage of the term is often credited to Jack Williamson.

SF Encyclopedia

  • [1934 N. W. Timoféëff-Ressovsky in Biol. Review 9 451

    The power of X-rays and radium to induce all known types of heritable variations makes the application of the radiation methods most valuable for analytical genetic studies, for instance…in ‘genetic engineering’ (i.e. in the synthesis of new genotypes and races).]

  • [1949 Science 26 Aug. 208/2

    In the future…genetic and eugenic counseling will become the foundation of human genetic engineering.]

  • 1951 J. Williamson Dragon’s Island xxiii. 180 Jack Williamson bibliography

    I was expecting to find that mutation lab filled with some sort of apparatus for genetic engineering.

  • 1955 P. Anderson Long Way Home in Astounding Science Fiction Apr. 27 page image Poul Anderson bibliography

    We've done things which I believe were unknown in your time: gravity control, genetic engineering, making Mars and Venus and the Jovian moons habitable.

  • 1970 I. Asimov Waterclap in Worlds of If Apr. 27 page image Isaac Asimov

    Genetic engineering…has reorganized your bones and muscles.

  • 1984 A. Walker Tomorrow’s World in Practical Computing Feb. 96/1 page image

    Amateur Genetic Engineering had taken off in a big way until the world’s governments had banned the disastrous experiments of the less ethically minded participants. The last straw was the nesting of the elephant-sparrows, and the terror of the red-admiral-piranha still lived in the memories of the survivors.

  • 1990 M. Crichton Jurassic Park (1991) ix. Michael Crichton

    The late twentieth century has witnessed a scientific gold rush of astonishing proportions: the headlong and furious haste to commercialise genetic engineering.

  • 1999 Interzone Jan. 31/3

    I [sc. Jack Williamson] was the first person to use the term ‘genetic engineering’ so far as Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary knows. I sent them tear sheets from Dragon’s Island, and they agreed to date the first use back to '51.

  • 2012 P. Heck On Books in Asimov’s Science Fiction Dec. 107/2 page image

    He uses slightly extrapolated computer science and genetic engineering to build a convincing supporting structure for the story.

Research requirements

antedating 1951

Earliest cite

Jack Williamson, Dragon's Island

Research History
Several reviews of Dragon's Island published in 1951 also credit Williamson with coining the term.

Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 1984 cite from Andrew Walker.

Last modified 2021-10-01 00:57:29
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.