The Darwinian Revolution
History 133/333 | HumBio 184 | History of Science 103 |
Course Information

I. Course Description
II. Course Requirements
III. Additional Texts

I. Course Description
This course will focus on the conceptual developments leading to the establishment of the major unifying paradigm of biological science, the theory of evolution by natural selection. We will begin by examining the state of biological thought just before Darwin, concentrating on the period between 1810 and 1836. A primary objective of the course will be a careful reading of Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species, in light of the large body of recent scholarship which has attempted to place creative achievement in the rich context of Victorian England. When Darwin returned from his voyage on the Beagle in 1836, he had not yet resolved his many questions concerning the transformation of species. Nor had he begun to work out a mechanism for species change. The intellectual revolution which took place during the next several years will be considered in terms of Darwin's day-to-day work as a field naturalist and geologist faced with the task of assembling a massive amount of new material. In examining how he formed new concepts and shaped new practices our emphasis will be upon the role of Darwin's participation in the exciting new developments in geology, his extensive contacts and knowledge of the world of breeders and horticulturalists, as well as his extensive reading of literature concerning political economy. No less important for our consideration of Darwin's achievement will be an examination of the ways in which he drew upon and also actively shaped language in order to gain acceptance for his views.

These studies of the origins of Darwin's theory will serve us next to examine the problems of Darwinism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While evolution was accepted by most as a fact, Darwin's theories of gradualism and natural selection came under intense attack. In the final section of the course we will discuss the manner in which most of these objections were overcome through the development of Mendelian genetics and its synthesis with Darwin's model of natural selection.

II. Course Requirements


The course will be conducted in mixed lecture-discussion format in two 50-minute classes per week. There will be a one-hour discussion section each week. Two discussion sections have been scheduled for Fridays: 2:15-3:30 pm in room 200-15; another discussion section Friday 2:15-3:30 pm in room 200-124.


There will be two essays of approximately 10 pages required. You will have a selection of topics to choose from. The topics for the first essay will be distributed on Thursday, November 7 and due on Tuesday, November 19. The topics for the final essay will be distributed on December 5 and due on December 12.

Students wishing to write a term paper for an honors project have the option of doing a term paper in place of the second essay. Students choosing this option must discuss their essay topics with me in advance. Essays on topics that have not been previously discussed and approved by me will not be considered for course credit. Make an appointment as early as possible, by all means before November 15, to discuss your final paper topic.

Discussion Section Readings and Presentation Topics

All students are required to make a class presentation of an article from the Course Reader or chapter from one of the course texts. Presentations will be made in the discussion section for the class. Sign-ups for discussion section are circulated at the end of class. If you intend to take the course for credit, please indicate three preferences for a presentation (ranked 1, 2, 3) on the sheet, sign your name to it and return it to class on Monday. The dates and materials to be presented are as follows:

October 4:

Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, selections.

October 11:

Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin: 391-481. Adrian Desmond, "Artisan Resistance and Evolution in Britain, 1819-1848," in Course Reader.

October 18:

Dov Ospovat, "Darwin after Malthus," in Course Reader. Dov Ospovat, "God and Natural Selection: The Darwinian Idea of Design," in Course Reader; Silvan S. Schweber, "The Origin of the Origin Revisited," in Course Reader.

October 25:

Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species: 7-130; 279-410; 459-490.

November 1:

Gillian Beer, Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth Century Fiction, Chapters 1-4, in Course Reader; James Secord, "The Uncommon Context: Evolution as Extraordinary Science in Britain, 1830-1860," in Course Reader.

November 8:

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex: Chapters 1-7. Alexander Walker, Beauty, Selections in Digital Course Reader; Evelleen Richards, ""Darwin and the Descent of Woman,"The Wider Domain of Evolutionary Thought, in Course Reader.

November 15:

Thomas Hunt Morgan, "Sex-Linked Inheritance In Drosophila" (Washington, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1916), in Course Reader; Thomas Hunt Morgan, "A Critique of The Theory of Evolution" (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1916 [1917]), in Course Reader; Robert E. Kohler, "Life in the Lab"; "Drosophila and Evolutionary Genetics: The Moral Economy of Scientific Practice," and "Systems of Production: Drosophila, Neurospora, and Biochemical Genetics," both in Course Reader.

November 22:

Theodosius Dobzhansky, Genetics and the Origin of Species , selections in Course Reader; Stephen J. Gould, "The Hardening of the Synthesis," in Course Reader; Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, "Unifying Biology: The Evolutionary Synthesis and Evolutionary Biology," in Course Reader.

November 29:

John Beatty, Genetics in the Atomic Age: The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, 1947-1956," in Course Reader; John Beatty, "Scientific collaboration, internationalism, and diplomacy: The case of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission,"in Course Reader; John Beatty, Origins Of The U.S. Human Genome Project: Changing Relationships Between Genetics And National Security, in Course Reader.

Course Grading:

The first paper contributes to 40% of the course grade; 45% of the course grade will be assigned to the second paper; 15% of the course grade will depend on the quality of your class presentation.

III. Additional Texts
While some of these texts are available online, I recommend that students buy hard "tree" copies due to their length and importance.
Course Reader available in Bookstore and online at:
Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex
Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist*
Daniel J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity
Robert E. Kohler, Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life
Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
*Recommended (selections available in digital course reader)

Menu Syllabus Course Info Contact