The Theory of Evolution: History and Interpretation

History 103S.003

Fall 2006
Instructor (text): 
115 Barrows
Day & Time: 
M 2-4

The 1859 publication of On the origin of species can be seen as one of the most significant scientific landmarks of modern times, with implications reaching into a variety of scientific and social arenas. In this course, we'll look at the history of the theory of evolution by natural selection, and we'll also examine some of the ways that it has been interpreted and applied in the last century and a half.

We will begin by looking at Darwin's work itself, in both a scientific and a cultural context, and from there move on to the ways in which the theory of evolution influenced (and was influenced by) science and society in Europe and the United States. Different interpretations and applications of evolutionary theory will be discussed in relation to biology, psychology, and social policy. This course is designed to be highly interactive, and will require active participation on your part. The assigned readings are important, and will serve as the foundation for our discussions. There will also be a number of short writing assignments during the course of the semester, leading up to a final paper that will draw on all of the major themes of the course.

Susan Marie Groppi received an undergraduate degree in psychology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research deals broadly with the relationship between social institutions and the development of science.