History of Medical and Life Sciences

HPSC-X632 — Fall 2021

Sander Gliboff
Course Description
The term “biology” was first used at the turn of the nineteenth century to distinguish a new “scientific” or “philosophical” approach to the study of life, distinct from natural history, natural theology, and medicine. But what did it mean to be scientific—either just then or for the ensuing two hundred years? Biology has continually transformed itself, in keeping with changing ideals, ideas, institutions, and instruments, and social concerns. This seminar focuses on key individuals and pivotal moments in the history of modern biology that have re-defined its scientific character, by either opening new lines of inquiry and explanation, developing new kinds of instruments, practices, and infrastructure, or changing the social role of the biological scientist. In anticipation of Gregor Mendel’s 200th birthday in July 2022, this year’s
version of the course will emphasize issues, current and historical, in heredity and evolution, including Mendel’s own work, Darwin and Galton, the 20th Mendel reception, the eugenics movement, molecular biology, sexdetermination, the evolutionary synthesis and evo-devo.There are no formal prerequisites, but knowledge of modern biology or
modern European or American history will be helpful.