Sidoli, Nathan Camillo
Spring, 2024
Office hours: Thursday, 4th and 5th

Office: 11-1409
x71-8371
[email protected]

Announcements

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

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

    Discussion questions 20%
    Participation 20%
    Midterm exam (take-home) 30%
    Final exam (take-home, or paper) 30%

    General Format

    The class meets twice a week for two lectures a week. Students are expected to attend the lectures, write a paper, and write a midterm and a final exam.

    Lecture Topics, Readings and Assignments

    Week 1: Apr 15 and 16

    Philosophical Introduction

  • Reading: I. Hacking, The Social Construction of What?, Chapter 3, “What about natural science”.
  • Philosophical Introduction

    Week 2: Apr 22 and 23

    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).
  • Supplementary material: Natural History Museum’s “A film about Carl Linnaeus”; Linnaeus, Systema Naturae (original text).
  • 18th Century Natural History

    Week 3: Apr 29 and 30

    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 4: May 7 and 10 (Second session, make-up class, different day)

    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.
  • Supplementary 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 5: May 13 and 14

    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.
  • Supplementary material: H. Schmidgen, “The Laboratory”.
  • 19th Century Laboratory Biology

    Week 6: May 20 and 21

    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. Skip pages from 445 to 460!).
  • Supplementary material: P.-T. Lee, “Colonialism versus Nationalism: The Plague of Hong Kong in 1894”.
  • Microbiology

    Conference Trip: May 27 and 28

    No Class

  • No Reading
  • Week 7: Jun 3 and 4 (Midterm exam distributed, Jun 3)

    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 8: Jun 10 and 11 (Midterm exam due, Jun 11)

    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 9: Jun 17 and 18

    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 10: Jun 24 and 25

    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 11: Jul 1 and 2

    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 12: Jul 8 and 9

    Ecology and Systems Thinking

  • Reading: P.J. Bowler and I.R. Morus, Making Modern Science, Chapter 9; D. Worster, Nature’s Economy, Chapter 17 (but skip the last section, from p. 420).
  • Ecology and Systems Thinking

    Week 13: Jul 15 and 16 (Final exam distributed, Jul 15)

    Dynamic Psychology and Neuroscience

  • Reading: W.R. Everdell, selections from The First Moderns, Chap. 7 and Chap. 9.
  • Supplementary material: I. Hacking, selection from The Social Construction of What?, Chap. 4, Madness: Biological or Constructed?
  • Dynamic Psychology and Neuroscience

    Week 14: Jul 22 and 23 (Second session, make-up class; Final exam, due Jul 23)

    Movie (either Jane by Brett Morgen, The Way of All Flesh by Adam Curtis, or The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts by Adam Curtis) and discussion

  • No Reading.