Course code:



M - Intermediate

Lab fee:


Typically offered:


Natural History can be regarded as the oldest “science”—indeed, at one point within the Western canon Natural History was science.

Beginning with discussion of early hunter-gatherers, working past Ashurbanipal, King of Kings, Hellenistic Greece, the Roman Empire, and into the herbals and magicians of the Middle Ages, this course will survey the development and eventual fragmentation of Natural History into more specialized branches.

Once a foundation has been established, we will engage with the naturalists of the great age of exploration and conquest during the 17th through the 19th centuries, ending with an examination of Natural History’s legacy in the rise of modern Ecology.

Course readings will draw heavily on original sources, using translations where appropriate. Towards the end of the term we will discuss the strengths and limitations of inductive and deductive reasoning in science and the implications of the 20th and 21st centuries’ increased emphasis on theoretical reasoning. Students will gain a better sense of Euro-American history overall and of the history of science in particular; the ability to use original sources; understanding of the importance of comparing multiple sources in arriving at historical conclusions and of the importance of recognizing cultural and historical biases in interpretation of information.

Evaluation will be based on class participation and the spoken and written presentation of individually chosen research on a person or topic important to the development of natural history as a science. 



Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.