Article ID: CBB001252460

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

unapi

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.

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Authors & Contributors
Sunderland, Mary Evelyn
Kohlstedt, Sally Gregory
Biagioli, Mario
Ritvo, Harriet
Beckert, Sven
Griesemer, James R.
Journals
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
Publishers
University of Chicago Press
University of California Press
Liverpool University Press
University of Pennsylvania Press
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Harvard University
Concepts
Museums
Natural history
Science education and teaching
Societies; institutions; academies
Paleontology
Collections
People
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
Places
United States
North America: United States; Canada
Great Britain
Japan
Spain
Germany
Institutions
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
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