MSc History of Science, Technology and Medicine
Year of entry: 2020
- View tabs
- View full page
Course unit details:
Making Life: Biological Sciences since 1800
|Unit level||FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Offered by||Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
This unit explores the radical changes in the character of the biological sciences over the last two centuries. Students taking this module will explore the development of key concepts and theories since 1800, will analyse how sites and institutions both shape and are shaped by biological sciences, and will consider how this history has shaped contemporary debates regarding issues such as genetic engineering and CRISPR. Our geographical focus will be on developments in Britain and Continental Europe, but with frequent reference where relevant to North America.
- Provide students with insight into major trends in the history of biological sciences since 1800, such as the emergence of evolutionary thinking in the nineteenth century; the rise of laboratory-based specialisms around 1900; the increasing connections between biological science and medicine; and the dominance of genetics and molecular approaches after 1945;
- Help students develop an understanding of how these changes have been understood and explained by historians and social scientists;
- Locate these changes in their broader social, cultural, intellectual and political contexts;
- Encourage critical reflection on the importance of sites, materials and institutions in the history of biological sciences;
- Allow students to develop skills in analysing and discussing relevant secondary literature and locating primary sources relating to major issues in the history of biological sciences (see unit description below for examples).
- Enhance students’ research and essay-writing skills, and provide suitable grounding for dissertation research into the history of the biological sciences.
Teaching and learning methods
The unit will be taught in six two-hour seminar sessions, where we will discuss a range of required readings (primary and secondary). While students are asked to read all required readings for the week, they will be expected to assign themselves a reading which they introduce and discuss to the group as a whole, analysing the author’s argument and placing it in context. All readings will be made available through Blackboard, and a week before each seminar the unit lead will also upload a number of questions to Blackboard that are designed to focus the students’ reading and act as prompts for the seminar discussion. The unit lead will start each seminar by giving a short (5-10 minute) background introduction, and discussion will then centre on the key readings and questions. Seminar performance is not marked, but each student will be expected to contribute equally.
Knowledge and understanding
- Demonstrate extensive knowledge of major trends in the history of the biological sciences since circa 1800
Transferable skills and personal qualities
|Written assignment (inc essay)||100%|
Detailed written feedback, delivered electronically and in person if requested.
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Duncan Wilson||Unit coordinator|