Sidoli, Nathan Camillo
Spring, 2020
Office hours: Thursday, 4th and 5th

Office: 11-1416
x71-8371
[email protected]

Announcements

I will put announcements about the class in this space. Please check here periodically as the term progresses.

Apr 4: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this class will be conducted online in the Spring term, over 24 sessions, starting from May 11th.

History of Modern Earth and Life Sciences

Course Description

The sciences have had a huge impact on all aspects of modern life. All of our modern technology – drugs and medicines – are due to the advances of science in the 19th and 20th centuries. The earth and life sciences, however, have shaped our modern world in more ways than this. Our lived experience has been dramatically altered by the rise and proliferation of scientific medicine and hygienics. Our views of who we are and our place in the world has been deeply shaped by the rise and development of the life sciences. Furthermore, these sciences have given rise to new technologies that are changing the distribution and organization of the natural world, and have to potential to change animal and human life.

This course focuses on the rise of the earth and life sciences as independent, professional disciplines during the modern period, along with ways in which these sciences were developed in industry to produce new technologies. During this period, practitioners in these fields managed to establish their sciences as indispensable to the industrialized nation state, invested with both economic and social capital and productive of significant results, both theoretical and practical. Moreover, the theories and technologies developed in these sciences had far-reaching consequences for the lifestyles and outlooks of the modern world. We will trace the development of the earth and life sciences from the Enlightenment period to the development of genetic biotechnologies. (This is a companion course with my History of Modern Physical Sciences.)

Required Texts

Please see below for the required texts. Each week, there will be readings that must be downloaded from this website. Much of the following books will be required reading and I encourage students to read the whole thing:

  • Bowler, P.J., Morus, I.R., Making Modern Science (Chicago UP: Chicago, 2005). (Selections, see below.)
  • Endersby, J., A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology (Harvard UP: Cambridge, MA, 2007). (Selections, see below.)
  • Gohau, G., A History of Geology (Rutgers UP: New Brunswick, 1990). (Selections, see below.)
  • Suggested Readings

  • Farber, P.L., Finding Order in Nature (Johns Hopkins UP: Baltimore, 2000).
  • Kohler, R.E., Lords of the Fly (Chicago UP: Chicago, 1994).
  • Grading

    Participation (and discussion questions) 30%
    Midterm exam 35%
    Final exam 35%

    General Format

    The class meets (online) twice a week: once for a lecture, and once for a seminar. Students are expected to listen to the lectures, participate in the seminars, and write two take-home exams.

    Discussion Questions

    Each week, before the seminar class, students are expected to submit two discussion questions through the online system. These questions should not be specific knowledge-based questions, but should rather raise topics that anyone can discuss based on the assigned readings. That is, discussion questions should framed so as to elicit the opinions of other students.

    Lecture and Seminar Topics, Readings and Assignments

    Week 1: May 11 and 12

    18th Century Natural History

  • Reading: P.L. Farber, Finding Order in Nature, Chapter 1; T.L. Hankins, Science and the Enlightenment, Chapter 5 (skip the section called “Experimental Physiology,” pp. 119–130).
  • Optional material: Natural History Museum’s “A film about Carl Linnaeus”.
  • 18th Century Natural History

    Week 2: May 18 and 19

    18th and 19th Century Geology

  • Reading: P.J. Bowler and I.R. Morus, Making Modern Science, Chapter 5; G. Gohau, A History of Geology, Chapter 6, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 11.
  • 18th and 19th Century Geology

    Week 3: May 25 and 26

    19th Century Evolutionary Theories

  • Reading: P.J. Bowler and I.R. Morus, Making Modern Science, Chapter 6; J. Endersby, A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology, Chapter 2.
  • Optional material: Online version of Darwin’s Origin of Species that shows the variations in the six editions: Variorum of Darwin’s Origin of Species.
  • 19th Century Evolutionary Theories

    Week 4: Jun 1 and 2

    19th Century Laboratory Biology: Cell theory, experimental physiology

  • Reading: P.J. Bowler and I.R. Morus, Making Modern Science, Chapter 7; J. Maienschein, Cell Theory and Development.
  • Optional material: H. Schmidgen, “The Laboratory”.
  • 19th Century Laboratory Biology

    Week 5: Jun 8 and 9 (Midterm exam distributed, Jun 8)

    Microbiology

  • Reading: T.D. Brock, Koch's Role in the Microscope Revolution; R. Porter, From Pasteur to Penicillin (pp. 428-445, and last paragraph, pp. 460-461).
  • Optional material: P.-T. Lee, “Colonialism versus Nationalism: The Plague of Hong Kong in 1894”.
  • Microbiology

    Week 6: Jun 15 and 16 (Midterm exam due, Jun 16)

    Statistical Thinking and Eugenics

  • Reading: I. Hacking, The Taming of Chance, Chapter 19; J. Endersby, A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology, Chapter 3.
  • Statistical Thinking in the 18th and 19th Centuries

    Week 7: Jun 22 and 23

    Genetics

  • Reading: J. Endersby, A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology, Chapter 4, and Chapter 6 (but skip two sections, pp. 195–205)
  • Genetics

    Week 8: Jun 29 and 30

    The Modern Synthesis

  • Reading: P.L. Farber, Finding Order in Nature, Chapter 8; J. Endersby, A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology, Chapter 7.
  • The Modern Synthesis

    Week 9: Jul 6 and 7

    20th Century Geology

  • Reading: P.J. Bowler and I.R. Morus, Making Modern Science, Chapter 10; G. Gohau, A History of Geology, Chapter 14, Chapter 16, Chapter 17.
  • 20th Century Geology

    Week 10: Jul 13 and 14

    Molecular Biology

  • Reading: J. Endersby, A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology, Chapter 8; B. Maddox, Roslind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, Chapter 12.
  • Molecular Biology

    Week 11: Jul 20 and 21 (Final exam distributed, Jul 20)

    Ecology and Systems Thinking

  • Reading: P.J. Bowler and I.R. Morus, Making Modern Science, Chapter 9; M. Ramage and K. Shipp, Systems Thinkers, Chapter 25.
  • Ecology and Systems Thinking

    Week 12: Jul 27 and 28 (Final exam due, Jun 28)

    Biotechnology

  • Reading: R. Bud, Penicillin, Chapter 4; J. Endersby, A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology, Chapter 12.
  • Optional material: R. Porter, From Pasteur to Penicillin (pp. 428-461).
  • Biotechnology