ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS for Integrative Biology/History 465 - Fall 2004

In choosing a topic for an essay (8-10 pages) or term paper (12-15 pages), you have innumerable opportunities to do original work on the history of biology. The following is a list of suggested topics. Students who wish to work on a topic not mentioned below are welcome to do so, but all topics (including those listed below) must be cleared with the instructor. A brief, written statement of your topic (one or two paragraphs) must be submitted to the instructor no later than Tuesday, October 12. The final essays and term papers are due at noon on Friday, December 17.

  1. The Comte de Buffon on the inferiority of the organic productions of the New World as compared to those of the Old World.
  2. Alfred Russel Wallace's analysis of the evolution of man.
  3. Robert Chambers' Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.
  4. Louis Agassiz's objections to Darwinian evolution.
  5. Hugo de Vries' mutation theory.
  6. Field studies, as exhibited in the work of (for example) Henry Walter Bates, Alfred Russel Wallace, David Lack, or Niko Tinbergen.
  7. 19th-century ideas about animal breeding, hybrids, human race-crossing, or human inbreeding.
  8. W. B. Cannon and the concept of homeostasis.
  9. T. H. Morgan and the relations between genetics and development.
  10. Charles Darwin, Julian Huxley, or Theodosius Dobzhansky on the question of evolutionary "progress."
  11. Jacques Loeb's Mechanistic Conception of Life.
  12. Samuel George Morton's Crania Americana.
  13. Darwin's theory of sexual selection (in The Descent of Man).
  14. Biologists' views of women's place in nature (narrowed down to specific biologists at specific times).
  15. Paul Kammerer's Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics.
  16. Margaret Nice's work on the life histories of birds.
  17. Eugenics as promoted by Charles Galton, C. B. Davenport, H. H. Goddard, Madison Grant, or others.
  18. "Social Darwinism" in the writings of Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Karl Pearson, et al.
  19. Biologists' arguments about the causes of human aggression.
  20. George and Elizabeth Peckham's studies of sexual selection in spiders.
  21. Herbert Spencer's debate with August Weismann on the inheritance of acquired characters.
  22. Francis Galton's theory of animal domestication.
  23. The study of selected aspects of a particular scientific institution or facility, e.g., the London or Paris zoo; the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.
  24. Scientific questions and practices as revealed in a several-year survey (on your part) of a not too recent scientific journal (say, before 1960). Examples might be: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London [17th -19th centuries], The Zoological Journal [1824-1835], Popular Science Monthly [late 19th century], Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science [late 19th century], Journal of Animal Behavior [1910s], Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology [early 1900s], The American Naturalist, Journal of Experimental Zoology, Genetics, Ecology, and many other English-language journals. (Note: There are numerous additional possibilities if you read French or German.)

    Whatever topic you choose, your paper must be your own, original work, based primarily (though not necessarily exclusively) on the consultation of primary sources, that is to say original scientific writings, rather than secondary sources (i.e., the work of other commentators who in effect analyze the topic for you).

If you are in doubt about whether your material qualifies as "primary" or "secondary," be sure to consult the instructor.

Note: Most topics will be better served by examining materials available in the Main Library or in the Biology Library than by limiting yourself to what you can find on the Internet.

Papers should be typed and double-spaced, and should include notes and a bibliography. You may use whatever notation system you feel is appropriate (e.g., footnotes, endnotes, or references within the text), but you are required to provide proper references to the sources you use.

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Website: E. Barbara Meyer - Educational Technology Center - Life Sciences
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