X426 • 3 semester units in History
Charles Darwin was the son of a well-to-do physician and the grandson of both the poet-physician Erasmus Darwin and of Josiah Wedgwood. The young Darwin displayed no particular talents and abandoned the study of medicine, unable to stand the sight of operations performed without anesthetic. Instead, he took up the study of natural history. Yet through his theory of evolution by natural selection, he became one of the most loved and most hated scientists of his day. His groundbreaking idea embroiled him in bitter controversies, the most iconic was the famous debate in Oxford between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and the distinguished scientist Thomas Henry Huxley (Darwin's Bulldog). Trace the ideas that led up to Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, the extraordinary impact this revolutionary concept had on Western culture and its continued influence in science, politics, economics, popular literature and film.
Alas, the University Museum in Oxford is closed in 2013for refurbishment, but you get the opportunity to view the building during a science walk through Oxford that also takes in the Botanic Garden (and the garden celebrating the discovery of penicillin), the Museum of the History of Science and other sites of scientific interest. Other visits are to the famous Natural History Museum in London; and to Cambridge Christ Church, which was Darwin’s old college; and the University Museum of Zoology, which opened a permanent exhibition on Darwin in 2009.
Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall (eds.), Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader (ISBN 9780231150194)
Charles Darwin (author), Michael Neve and Sharon Messenger (eds), Autobiographies (ISBN 9780140433906)
Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (ISBN 978146594789)
Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (ISBN 9780393311501)
National Academy of Sciences, Science, Evolution, and Creationism (ISBN 9780309105866)
You are expected to write one paper of 1,500 to 2,000 words and to deliver one oral presentation.
15% course participation
25% in-class presentation
60% final paper
Willem D. Hackmann, M.A., D.Phil., is emeritus senior assistant keeper, Museum of the History of Science; reader at the University of Oxford; and fellow of Linacre College, Oxford.