History of evolutionary biology I

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JHE353 Fall 2011

Mondays & Wednesdays 10am-11am

Ramsey Wright 117
Instructor: Jaipreet Virdi

Office: Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology

Victoria College, 91 Charles Street West, Room VIC 308

Email: jai.virdi@utoronto.ca

Office Hours: Wednesdays 12-1, or by appointment
TAs: Sebastian Assenza, seb.assenza@utoronto.ca

Office hours by appointment only.

This course charts the emergence of major ideas about biological evolution from Aristotle to the emergence of eugenics in the 1920s, focusing on the cultural context of these ideas and the social impact of changes about biological knowledge. We will study the how changing ideas about natural theology, geology, and classification influenced the development of the Darwinian theory of evolution. We will also examine how these scientific ideas were viewed by the broader public. By thinking critically about these ideas, we will learn major topics in evolutionary biology and understand how the application of evolutionary ideas shaped contemporary thinking about the general history of life on earth.
Required Materials

Philip Appleman (ed), Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition, W.W.Norton & Company, 3rd Edition, 2001.

David Young, the Discovery of Evolution, Cambridge University Press, 2nd Edition, 2007.
These books are available for purchase at the University of Toronto Bookstore. Other readings will be available on Blackboard or online as noted. They are also on course reserves at Gerstein Library.

Ramsay Wright, room 142

*Tutorial sessions will be determined during the first week of classes*

You must register on ROSI for a tutorial section and you must attend that section.

Course Requirements

Each week the course readings will be divided between secondary source readings, which will compliment the lectures, and primary source readings, which will be the focus of tutorial discussions. You are expected to have all read the materials before class and be prepared to discuss them in tutorials. I will also post study questions on Blackboard weekly; these questions are meant to help you think critically about the week’s material, engage in tutorial discussions, and to help you study for the exams.


In-class Mid-term test: 25%

It’s important for us to have an indication of your strengths and weaknesses in terms of understanding the course material and your writing skills. The mid-term allows us to assess your skills and provide assistance if needed for the essay and final exam. The test will consist of 5 short answer questions (one paragraph) and an essay; you will have an hour to complete the test. There will be no make-ups for the midterm. For whatever reason you miss the test, your grades will be adjusted so your final exam is worth 65%.

Midterm: Monday October 17

Essay: 25%

You will have to write a research paper on a topic relevant to this class (word limit 2,000words). Your topic must be approved by your TA (no more than a paragraph) and you will have to submit a one-page outline of your paper as well as an annotated bibliography. Further details will be provided in tutorials and in class we will also go over how to write a proper history paper. Please note: Essays WILL NOT be accepted via e-mail.

Research topic due: Wednesday October 5

Outline & Bibliography due: Monday November 14

Final Essay due: Monday December 5

Final Exam: 40%

Date determined by the University. The format will be the same as the mid-term.
Tutorial Participation: 10%

Class participation allows you to present your views, listen and debate with others’ viewpoints and engage in discussions. Your grade will be derived from your attendance, participation, involvement in discussions, and responses to the weekly study questions. It will be difficult for you to do well in this course without attending the tutorial sessions.
Late Assignments & Extensions

The penalty will be 5% of your grade for the essay for each day (including weekends) your paper is late. Extensions for the essay and make-ups for the final exam will ONLY be given for major unforeseen personal disasters and illnesses.

Grade Revision:

All assignments in this course will be graded by the teaching assistants. Each one of them will grade the same question in all the exams, to ensure consistency in grading. If you are dissatisfied with your grade for a particular question, you must write a short note (maximum one page) no later than one week after getting your exam back and give it to the TA who graded it for discussion. After discussing your grade with the TA, if you are still unsatisfied, you can bring the exam to me for review. You are responsible for getting the graded assignments the day they are given back. Requests for revision of grades will only be accepted after a week of receiving your grade.

Academic Honesty:

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. The University of Toronto Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters lists plagiarism as:

It shall be an offence for a student knowingly: …(d) to represent as one’s own any idea or expression of an idea or work of another in any academic examination or term test or in connection with any other form of academic work, i.e. to commit plagiarism.

See “How Not to Plagiarize:” http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/using-sources/how-not-to-plagiarize

If you are having ANY trouble with you essay, talk to me of the TAs after class, email me, visit one of the writing centers around campus, or come visit me during my office hours.
Special Needs:

If you have a disability, please come to see me. I will be happy to accommodate your needs to do well in this course. The University of Toronto is committed to accessibility. If you require accommodations for a disability, or have any accessibility concerns about the course, the classroom or course materials, please contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible, or visit http://studentlife.utoronto.ca/accessibility.


All correspondence/announcements will be sent via email; it is your responsibility for making sure you receive the emails sent via Blackboard. If there is anything about the course you need to discuss with me, I prefer you to make an appointment. Emails will not be used to explain material covered in lectures or tutorials you missed, or for questions with information in the syllabus. Please speak with your classmates if you missed a lecture or tutorial or with your TA about tutorial sessions. All emails will be answered within two business days; and as per UofT policies, you must use your University of Toronto email account for all correspondence.

Course Schedule & Readings

Week 1: introduction: The Idea of Evolution—Its Scopes and Implications

Mon. Sept. 12

Introduction to the Course

Wed. Sept 14

The Pre-evolutionary Worldview

Required Readings

  • The Discovery of Evolution, Chapter 1, 2 (p.1-29)

  • Medieval Bestiaries—Collection of images online: http://bestiary.ca

Go through the list of animals and examine various images

Optional Readings

  • For a general overview of the history of biology: Jan Sapp, Genesis: The Evolution of Biology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

  • Ron Baxter, Bestiaries and their Users in the Middle Ages (Sutton, 1998).

Lecture 3: Cabinet of Curiosities: The Politics of Natural History

Monday Sept. 19

Required Readings

  • Paula Findlen, “Courting Nature,” in N. Jardine, J. Secord, and E. Spary, Cultures of Natural History (Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp.57-74. (Blackboard)

  • Katie Whitaker, “The Culture of Curiosity,” in N. Jardine, J. Secord, and E. Spary, Cultures of Natural History (Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp.75-90. (Blackboard)

  • Images: Check out some of the beautiful color plates from Albert Seba’s Cabinet of Natural Curiosities online at taschen.com (hyperlink will take you there directly)

Optional Readings

  • Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor, The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth Century Europe (Oxford, 1985)

  • John Prest, The Garden of Eden: The Botanic Garden and the Re-Creation of Paradise (New Haven, 1981).

Lecture 4: Classification Mania

Wednesday Sept. 21

Required Readings

  • Lisbet Koerner, “Carl Linnaeus in his Time and Place,” in N. Jardine, J. Secord, and E. Spary, Cultures of Natural History (Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp.145-162. (Blackboard)

Optional Readings

  • Lisbet Koerner, Linnaeus: Nature and Nation (Harvard University Press, 2001)

  • Jacques Roger, Keith R. Benson, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought (Stanford University Press, 1997). (especially parts II & III—Ch9 is on Buffon)

  • James Larson, Interpreting Nature: The Science of Living Form from Linnaeus to Kant (John Hopkins, 1994)

Lecture 5: Rocks of All Ages

Monday Sept. 26

Required Readings

  • David Young, The Discovery of Evolution, Ch. 3, pp.54-75 (BLACKBOARD)

  • Abraham Gottlob Werner, “The Aqueous Origin of Basalt “ (1791) (BLACKBOARD)

  • Lyell, excerpt from Principles of Geology (1830-33) in Appleman pp.49-52.

  • Georges Cuvier, “Squellette trouvé au Paraguay” (“Skeleton found in Paraguay,” 1796); reprinted in Martin J.S. Rudwick, “The Megatherium from South America,” in Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes: New Translations (University of Chicago Press, 1998) pp.25-32. Available on GoogleBooks. (click hyperlink to go to book)

Optional Readings

  • Roy Porter, The Making of Geology: Earth Science in Britain, 1660-1815 (Cambridge, 1977).

  • P. Rossi, The Dark Abyss of Time (Chicago, 1984)

Lecture 6: The Transmutationists

Wednesday Sept. 28

Required Readings

  • Young, Discovery, Chapter 4. (Blackboard)

  • Lamarck, excerpt from Zoological Philosophy (1809) in Appleman pp.44-48

Optional Readings

  • Toby Appel, The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate: French Biology in the Decades Before Darwin (Oxford University Press, 1987).

  • Pietro Corsi, The Age of Lamarck: Evolutionary Theories in France 1790-1830 (Princeton University Press, 1988).

  • Dorinda Outram, Georges Cuvier: Vocation, Science, and Authority in Post-Revolutionary France (Manchester University Press, 1984).

  • Richard Burkhardt, The Spirit of System: Lamarck and Evolutionary Biology (Harvard University Press, 1977).

  • Martin J.S. Rudwick, The Great Devonian Controversy (University of Chicago Press, 1985).

Lecture 7: British Society in the 19th Century

Monday Oct. 3

Required Readings

  • Peter Bowler, Evolution, pp.96-108 (Blackboard)

  • Jonathan Topham, “Science and Popular Education in the 1830s: The Role of the Bridgewater Treatises,” British Journal for the History of Science 25 (1992), pp.397-430. (BLACKBOARD)

  • Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) in Appleman pp.39-40.

Optional Readings

  • Robert M. Young, “Malthus and the Evolutionists: The Common Context of Biological and Social Theory,” Past and Present 43 (May 1969), pp.109-104.

  • Menachem Fisch and Simon Schaffer (eds.), William Whewell: A Composite Portrait (Claredon Press, 1991).

  • Aileen Fyfe and Bernard Lightman (eds.), Science in the Marketplace: Nineteenth Century Sites and Experiences (University of Chicago Press, 2007).

Lecture 8: Science and Sensationalism

Wednesday Oct. 5


Required Readings

  • James A. Secord, Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (University of Chicago Press, 2000); Chapter 3 “Evolution for the People,” (selections on Blackboard)

  • Paley, Natural Theology (1802), in Appleman pp.41-43

Optional Readings

  • James A. Secord, Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (University of Chicago Press, 2000).

  • Richard Helmstadter and Bernard Lightman (eds.), Victorian Faith in Crisis: Essays on Continuity and Change in Nineteenth-Century Religious Belief (Stanford University Press, 1990).

Thanksgiving, no classes

Monday Oct. 10

Review for Midterm

Wednesday Oct. 12


Monday Oct. 17

Lecture 9: The Beetle-Hunters

Wednesday Oct. 19

Required Readings

  • Janet Browne, Charles Darwin a Biography Vol.1: Voyaging (New York: Knopf, 1997); Part I, “Collector.” (selections on Blackboard)

  • Andrew Berry & Janet Browne, “The Other Beetle-Hunter,” Nature 453, June 2008 (Blackboard)

Optional Readings

  • K.T. Grant and Gregory B. Estes, Darwin in Galapagos: Footsteps to a New World (Princeton University Press, 2009).

  • Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Norton, 1991).

  • Martin Fichman, An Elusive Victorian: The Evolution of Alfred Russell Wallace (University of Chicago Press, 2004).

  • Edward Manier, The Young Darwin and his Cultural Circle (D. Reidle Pub., Co., 1978).

Lecture 10: The Species Question

Monday Oct. 24

Required Readings

  • Young, Discovery, Chapter 5 (Blackboard)

  • Darwin, excerpts from The Voyage of the Beagle (1845) in Appleman pp.67-71

Optional Readings

  • N. Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge 1991).

Lecture 11: A Big Secret in a Little Notebook

Wednesday Oct. 26

Required Readings

  • Bowler, Evolution, Chapter 5, pp.155-176 (Blackboard)

Optional Readings

  • David Quammen, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin (Atlas Books, 2006).

  • Janet Browne, Darwin: The Power of Place (Knopf, 2002).

Lecture 12: Origin of Species

Monday Oct. 31

Required Readings

  • Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (1859), selections from Appleman, pp.95-133.

  • Alfred Russell Wallace, “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type” 1858) in Appleman pp.61-64

Optional Readings

  • Dov Ospovat, The Development of Darwin’s Theory: Natural History, Natural Theology, and Natural Selection, 1838-1859 (Cambridge University Press, 1981).

  • Correspondence of Charles Darwin online: www.darwinproject.ac.uk

  • Robert J. Richards, “Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and its Moral Purpose,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Origin of Species (2008).

Lecture 12: Popular vs Professional Reception of Darwinism

Wednesday Nov. 2


Required Readings

  • Young, Discovery, Chapter 6, pp.130-148 (Blackboard)

  • Janet Browne, “Darwin in Caricature: A Study in the Popularisation and Dissemination of Evolution,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 145 (2001). (Blackboard)

  • Richard Owen, “Darwin on the Origin of Species” (1860), in Appleman, pp.267-270.

  • Andrew Carneige, “The Gospel of Wealth” (1900), in Appleman pp.396-398

  • Peter Kropotkin, “Mutual Aid” (1902), in Appleman pp.398-403

Optional Readings

  • Gregory Radick, “Is the Theory of Natural Selection Independent of its History?” in The Cambridge Companion to Darwin, Second Edition (Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp.147-163.

  • Adrian Desmond, The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London (University of Chicago Press, 1989).

  • Alvar Ellegård, Darwin and the General Reader: The Reception of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in the British Periodical Press, 1859-1872 (University of Chicago Press, 1990).

  • Peter Bowler, The Eclipse of Darwinism (John Hopkins University Press, 1983).

  • Peter Bowler, The Non-Darwinian Revolution: Reinterpreting a Historical Myth (John Hopkins University Press, 1988).

  • Thomas Glick, The Comparative Reception of Darwinism (University of Chicago Press, 1974).

  • Paul Cook, Darwin’s Coat-Tails: Essays on Social Darwinism (Peter Lang Publishing, 2007).

  • Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought (Beacon Press, 1992).

  • Mike Hawkins, Social Darwinism in European and American Thought, 1860-1945: Nature as Model and Threat (Cambridge University Press, 1997).

  • James Moore, The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to come to terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870-1900 (Cambridge University Press, 1981).

FALL BREAK: No classes Nov 7-11

Lecture 14: How to Write a History Paper

Monday Nov. 14

*Outline & Bibliography Due*

Lecture 15: Apes, Angels and Victorians

Wednesday Nov. 16

Required Readings

  • David N. Livingstone, “That Huxley Defeated Wilberforce in their Debate over Evolution and Religion,” in Ronald Numbers (ed), Galileo Goes to Jail; And Other Myths about Science and Religion (Harvard University Press, 2009). (Blackboard)

  • Richard Hofstadter, “The Vogue of Spencer,” from Social Darwinism in American Thought (Beacon Press, 1955), in Appleman, pp.389-395.

  • Martin Fichman, “Debates on Human Evolution,” in Evolutionary Theory and Victorian Culture (Humanity Books, 2002), pp.97-122 (Blackboard)

Optional Readings

  • Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin’s Sacred Cause (Penguin Group, 2010).

  • Adrian Desmond, Huxley: From Devil’s Disciple to Evolution’s High Priest (Basic Books, 1999).

  • Ian Hesketh, Of Apes and Ancestors: Evolution, Christianity and the Oxford Debate (University of Toronto Press, 2009).

Lecture 16: The Human Question

Monday Nov. 21

Required Readings

  • James Moore and Adrian Desmond, “Introduction” to Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (Penguins Edition). (Blackboard)

  • Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871), Chapter 1, 3, 21, in Appleman.

Optional Readings

  • Mark Ridley, The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature (Viking, 1993)

  • Bert Bender, The Descent of Love: Darin and the Theory of Sexual Selection in American Fiction, 1871-1926 (Philadelphia 1996)

  • Jill Coway, Suffer and Be Still: Women in the Victorian Age (Bloomington, 1977)

Lecture 17: Heredity

Wednesday Nov. 23

Required Readings

  • Young, Discovery, Chapter 7 (Blackboard)

  • Mendel’s Experiment explained—click on “Launch the Animation”: http://www.mendel-museum.com/eng/1online/experiment.htm

Optional Readings

  • Vitezslav Orel, Mendel (Oxford University Press, 1984).

  • Garland E. Allen, Thomas Hunt Morgan: The Man and His Science (Princeton University Press, 1978).

  • Peter J. Bowler, The Mendelian Revolution (John Hopkins University Press, 1989).

  • Robert E. Kohler, Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life (University of Chicago Press, 1994).

MOVIE NIGHT: Gattaca (1997)

Thursday Nov. 24

VIC 323, 5pm.

Lecture 18: Eugenics in Britain

Monday Nov. 28

Required Readings

  • Diane B. Paul, Controlling Human Heredity: 1865 to the Present (Humanity Books, 1996); Chapters 1-2. (Blackboard)

  • Bowler, Evolution, pp.292-298.

  • Eugenics archives: Read the articles in “Virtual Exhibits” www.eugenicsarchives.org

Optional Readings

  • Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (W.W. Norton & Company, 1981).

  • David Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (Harvard University Press, 1995).

Lecture 19: Eugenics in America

Wednesday Nov. 30

Required Readings

  • Diane B. Paul, Controlling Human Heredity: 1865 to the Present (Humanity Books, 1996); Chapters 3-4. (Blackboard)

  • Extracts from The Scopes Trial (1925), in Appleman, pp.542-549.

Optional Readings

  • Angus McLaren, Our Master Race: Eugenics in Canada, 1885-1945 (McClelland & Stewart, 1990).

  • Steve Selden, Inheriting Shame: The Story of Eugenics and Racism in America (Teachers College Press, 1999).

  • Ronald Numbers, Darwinism Comes to America (Harvard University Press, 1998).

  • Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (Basic Books, 2006).

  • Inherit the Wind (1960 film)


Wednesday Nov. 23


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