UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


UCL Summer School

Prof Joe Cain also teaches modules for UCL Summer School (link). This programme is designed for 3-week intensive learning experiences in which students earn credit at their home institutions for work undertaken in London.

HMS Beagle

Darwin and the History of Evolution

**New for Summer 2018**

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.

Provisional plan for topics

Week One: biology before Darwin, Darwin’s Origin of Species and its reception, science becomes a profession, social Darwinism

Week Two: fossils and museums, deep time and human evolution, Down House and amateur science, Scopes monkey trial, science and religion

Week Three: cathedrals to nature, natural theology, eugenics, anthropology of races, Darwin and evolution today

Provisional plan for assignments

Individual project: 5-minute podcast (40%)

Group project: 6-page A4 visitor’s guide (60%)

Sample of teaching

Prof Joe Cain has won three teaching awards, plus other awards for public engagement. He frequently lectures to large public audiences on subjects related to Darwin, history of evolution, and history of dinosaur biology. Here is a YouTube recording of a lecture he delivered at Michigan State University about Darwin in London (link). Here is a YouTube recording of a lecture he delivered at the Museum of London about the famous dinosaur statues in Crystal Palace Park (link).

Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

Modern History of Science in London

ISSU1007. Offered in Summer 2017. 

Science rapidly expanded in 19th century Britain - this module will explore that expansion through the lens of the great metropolis that was London.

The module will examine a variety of settings; including museums, laboratories, lecture halls, publishing devices, parlours, and private collections, and a variety of communities; including professional societies, amateur clubs, working men’s clubs, and ephemeral consumer activity. It will explore how these venues come together to create an integrated world for science, and will examine how the relationship between science and the public evolved over the 19th century. It includes visits to some of London's main attractions related to 19th century science. Specific visits may vary, but suitable choices include: Natural History Museum and The Science Museum, Crystal Palace Park, Down House, Royal Institution, Royal College of Surgeons, Docklands Museum, and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. A visit to the museums of either Oxford or Cambridge will also take place, as will at least one walking tour, to visit some of the scientific clubs near Piccadilly Circus.

More information (link)