London, United Kingdom

Darwin and the History of Evolution

when 29 June 2020 - 17 July 2020
language English
duration 3 weeks
credits 7.5 EC
fee GBP 2100

The 2020 UCL Summer School has been cancelled due to the spread of Covid-19.

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.

Course leader

Professor Joe Cain's research interests include the history of evolution (especially the synthesis period in evolutionary studies), Darwin and Darwinism, history of science in London, and history of natural history. His research interests range from roman

Target group

This is a level two module (equivalent to second year undergraduate). Students are required to have completed at least one year of undergraduate study and should have a keen interest in the subject.

Course aim

As a history module, this course aims to develop skills working with original source materials: their reading, weighting, and critical assessment. It also aims to further develop analytical skills and critical interpretation. To develop knowledge of content in the history and context of evolutionary studies, this module surveys major themes, actors, and conceptual shifts – in short, what are the big ideas associated with evolution and Darwinism? It seeks to integrate broad historical themes and contexts into this survey.
As a science module, this course introduces students to some of the main arguments in evolutionary studies over the past 150 years. It is not suitable on its own as a course for evolutionary studies. Instead, it aims to introduce non-scientists to major themes and research directions in the field.
As a module using London as a learning space, this module uses site visits to localities related to Darwin and the history of evolution to reflect on the geography and locality of knowledge, its circulation, and the importance of place. One theme of this module is that location matters. It makes a difference.

Credits info

7.5 EC
7.5 ECTS
7.5 ECTS / 4 US / 0.5 UCL

Fee info

GBP 2100: Students joining us for six weeks (two modules) will receive a tuition fee discount.
GBP 1100: Acoommodation will cost approx. £1100 per 3-week Session.