Article ID: CBB001252460

Teaching Natural History at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (2013)


During its centennial celebrations in 2008, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) at the University of California, Berkeley paid homage to its founding director, Joseph Grinnell. Recognized as a leading scientific institution, the MVZ managed to grow throughout the twentieth century, a period often characterized by the decline of natural history. To understand how and why research flourished at the MVZ, this paper looks closely at Grinnell's undergraduate course, the Natural History of the Vertebrates (NHV). Taught by MVZ affiliates since 1914, the NHV offers an important window on Grinnell's approach and legacy. This paper argues that the NHV contributed to the MVZ's long-term success by acting as, first, a gateway to natural history; second, a vector for the MVZ's research programme; and third, a shared faculty responsibility. Grinnell's significance in the history of science is understated, in part because his writing style de-emphasized the importance of his theoretical contributions, including his development of the niche concept, his emphasis on population thinking and geographic isolation in studies of evolution, and his effort to integrate speciation questions and genetics. Studying the NHV highlights these contributions because Grinnell freely communicated his ideas to his students. An analysis of Grinnell's course material shows that his theoretical and methodological approach pre-dated the evolutionary synthesis and inspired natural-history research throughout the past century.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Sunderland, Mary E.; (2012)
Collections-Based Research at Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (/isis/citation/CBB001220848/) unapi

Article Sunderland, Mary E.; (2013)
Modernizing Natural History: Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology in Transition (/isis/citation/CBB001320039/) unapi

Article Sunderland, Mary E.; (2013)
Computerizing Natural History Collections (/isis/citation/CBB001213642/) unapi

Book Mary Amanda Helmich; Kevin V. Bunker; (2018)
A legacy in brick & iron: Sacramento's Central & Southern Pacific Railroad shops (/isis/citation/CBB258498215/) unapi

Book Kohlstedt, Sally Gregory; (2010)
Teaching Children Science: Hands-On Nature Study in North America, 1890--1930 (/isis/citation/CBB001020047/) unapi

Article Brataas, Anne; Kohlstedt, Sally Gregory; (2011)
Shared and Distinctive Missions: The University of Minnesota and Its Natural History Museum, 1860--1940 (/isis/citation/CBB001022493/) unapi

Book Rader, Karen A.; Cain, Victoria E. M.; (2014)
Life on Display: Revolutionizing U.S. Museums of Science and Natural History in the Twentieth Century (/isis/citation/CBB001422031/) unapi

Article Griesemer, James R.; Gerson, Elihu M.; (1993)
Collaboration in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (/isis/citation/CBB000034783/) unapi

Thesis Kasey Marie Sease; (2021)
Marketing Agencies for Science: Nonprofits, Public Science Education, and Capitalism in Modern America (/isis/citation/CBB197222725/) unapi

Thesis Quintero, Camilo; (2007)
Trading in Birds: A History of Science, Economy, and Conservation in UnitedStates-Colombia Relations (/isis/citation/CBB001560717/) unapi

Article Rossi, Michael; (2010)
Fabricating Authenticity: Modeling a Whale at the American Museum of Natural History, 1906--1974 (/isis/citation/CBB000954445/) unapi

Book Blanchard, Pascal; (2008)
Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires (/isis/citation/CBB001033417/) unapi

Article Melber, Leah M.; Abraham, Linda M.; (2002)
Science Education in U.S. Natural History Museums: A Historical Perspective (/isis/citation/CBB000202483/) unapi

Thesis Rieppel, Lukas Benjamin; (2012)
Dinosaurs: Assembling an Icon of Science (/isis/citation/CBB001567402/) unapi

Chapter Gregory A. Liggett; S. Terry Childs; Nicholas A. Famoso; H. Gregory McDonald; Alan L. Titus; Elizabeth Varner; Cameron L. Liggett; (2018)
From public lands to museums: The foundation of U.S. paleontology, the early history of federal public lands and museums, and the developing role of the U.S. Department of the Interior (/isis/citation/CBB608011914/) unapi

Book Peck, Robert McCracken; Stroud, Patricia Tyson; Purcell, Rosamond Wolff; (2012)
A Glorious Enterprise: The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and the Making of American Science (/isis/citation/CBB001251197/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Sunderland, Mary Evelyn
Kohlstedt, Sally Gregory
Biagioli, Mario
Ritvo, Harriet
Beckert, Sven
Griesemer, James R.
Journal of the History of Biology
Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences
Science and Education
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Museum History Journal
Gender and History
University of Chicago Press
University of California Press
Liverpool University Press
University of Pennsylvania Press
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Harvard University
Natural history
Science education and teaching
Societies; institutions; academies
Alexander, Annie M.
Grinnell, Joseph
Winchell, Newton Horace
Miller, Alden Holmes
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, early
20th century, late
United States
North America: United States; Canada
Great Britain
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (University of California, Berkeley)
University of California, Berkeley
University of California
American Museum of Natural History, New York
University of Minnesota
Smithsonian Institution

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment