This seminar has two aims. First, it offers a long view of the intellectual history of the Western sciences of human heredity and reproduction from Aristotle to the mid-twentieth century. Participants will gain a broad understanding of the history of thought and scientific discovery at the nexus of heredity and reproduction. Class discussion will take up themes of the nature of scientific claims to knowledge; conceptions of gender, race, class, and sexuality in the science of heredity and reproduction; and interactions between biology, politics, and culture.
Second, the course offers a practicum in working with primary source historical texts. Participants will read foundational historical texts in direct encounter. Our discussions of classic philosophical, scientific, and literary sources will engage their substantive content as well as broad questions of methodology in the history of science and the pleasures and challenges of reading and interpreting such texts. We will also consider how the availability of digitized online versions of rare historical primary source texts is changing norms and practices of reading, teaching, and scholarly research in the history of science.