- Module code
- Taught during
- Session 1
- Module leader
- Professor Joe Cain
- GPA of around 3.3/4.0 (US) or equivalent
- Assessment method
- 5-minute podcast (40%), 6-page A4 visitor’s guide (60%)
Evolution is an idea at the heart of modern science and society. Everything evolves. This module explores the history of evolution as an idea, covering topics from the eighteenth century to the present. Yes, we will explore science: evolutionary biology has evolved and we’ll follow some of those changes. But there is so much more. London has been a key centre in the development of evolutionary studies. Darwin developed key ideas here. So did his predecessors, and many successors. We’ll visit locations such as Down House (Darwin’s family home), The Grant Museum of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, The Linnean Society and Oxford Museum of Natural History. We’ll explore episodes as diverse as (a) dinosaurs and deep time, (b) social Darwinism and corporate capitalism, (c) eugenics, (d) the clash in religion between fundamentalism and modernity, and (e) changing views of what it means to be human.
We also explore the idea of hero worship and commemoration: for example, why does Darwin receive so much credit, and why is he buried in Westminster Abbey? There are no prerequisites: the science will be accessible to liberal arts students; the history will be accessible to science students.
Upon successful completion of this module, students will:
- demonstrate knowledge and understanding in the history of science related to Darwin and the history of evolutionary studies
- demonstrate knowledge and understand at both the level of content and historiography (i.e., history and heritage)
- demonstrate the ability to interpret critically both primary and secondary sources
- approach new material in this module's domain from a historical perspective and with a critical historian's eye
- demonstrate an appreciation for the geography of knowledge
This is a level two module (equivalent to second year undergraduate). Students are required to have completed at least one year of undergraduate study in a related subject.
Classes (usually three or four hours per day) take place on the Bloomsbury campus from Monday to Friday any time between 9am and 6pm.
- 5-minute podcast (40%)
- 6-page A4 visitor’s guide (60%)
Professor Cain's research interests include the history of evolution (especially the synthesis period in evolutionary studies), Darwin and Darwinism, history of science in London, and history of natural history. His research interests range from romantic collaborations in modern science to the famous dinosaur statues in London's Crystal Palace. In 2009 he published a new edition of Darwin's Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (Penguin) and a collection of essays on new trends in the history of Darwinism, Descended from Darwin (American Philosophical Society). He’s run successful guided tours related to Darwin and science in London for nearly two decades. As an example of his work, see his 2013 UCL Inaugural Lecture, “Darwin in London” https://youtu.be/TtW713AyNsM