- study: undergraduate
- study: msc
- study: phd
- oral history workshop
- voices project
- film nights
- walking tours
Head of Department, and
Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology
Prof Cain's research interests include the history of evolutionary studies, Darwin and Darwinism, history of science in London, history of natural history and natural history films.
Publications via UCL's IRIS service (link)
0207 679 3041 (UK)
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HPSC3004 Dissertation - projects ideas
This page lists ideas for dissertation topics. If they sound interesting, talk with me directly. I'm also open to supervising other projects. Start with a conversation.
- How was the rise of Lysenko in Soviet genetics as monitored in the UK, both in the public and professional literature? What did scientists in this country do about it?
- Explore the visual rhetoric of the eugenics debate in the 1910s, 1920s or 1930s, comparing across nations or political groups.
- The population genetics of JBS Haldane.
- The aquarium work of Philip Henry Gosse.
- Investigate the origin and operation of a scientific society or journal or conference, its place in the community, its ideology and agenda.
- Investigate the activity of any biologist, zoologist, or botanist who worked at UCL during part of their career. Possible choices include: Sir Peter Medawar, JBS Haldane, Karl Pearson, and E. Ray Lankester, among many others.
- Natural history and empire. Use of imperial networks by biologists and natural historians: collecting, information exchange, resources. Good example in Browne's Voyaging about Darwin tapping into that network. Investigate other specific cases, such as those sponsored by Sir Joseph Banks. Is there such a thing as "colonial biology"? Explore post-colonial historiography and implications for center-periphery models of information flow.
- Women in British science: create basic historical-demographic information for any historical period. Begin with ideas in Margaret Rossiter's Women Scientists in America for suggestions about places to look; also David Allen's Naturalist in Britain. Where ARE women in British biology? Perhaps concentrate on one discipline and relatively narrow chronological span. E.g., ornithology is a good example because it combines strong professional and amateur traditions.
- Investigate the design and implementation process of an exhibit at the Natural History Museum.
- Explore the importance of anthropology or paleontology in the life of Arthur Conan Doyle. What were his connections with the Piltdown man controversy?
- Eco-tourism (with the added twist of tourism in a post-colonial world)
- Politics of extinction
- Examine debates about the Galapagos Islands between the preservationists and those interested in the commercial development of the island's resources
- What will natural history museums be doing by the end of the 21st century?
Special focus: object biographies
I very much want to concentrate attention on the Grant Museum and material in the collections. One idea is to focus attention on particular objects and write a “biography” of them: one layer would be the science of what it is and where it came from, another would be about the collecting (who did it, when, why, how representative was that collecting), another layer would be about broader historical connections.
This combines real detective work and historical scholarship. Staff in the museum have agreed to help. We also are thinking about ways to publish the results of such “biographies” – probably on-line after the work is finished.
Examples for biographies:
- dodo - done in 2009-10
- Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine)
- embryological models - done in 2009-10
- blaschka glass models
- mammoth hair
- Archaeopteryx cast
- plesiosaur cast
- materials from the HMS Challenger expedition
- any of the other specimens on display
There are many other examples in the displays. Feel free to talk with the staff at the museum to generate ideas.
Page last modified on 14 sep 12 08:32 by Joe Cain
Professor Joe Cain
UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies