The History of science (p) (2017/2018)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Luca Ciancio
Luca Ciancio
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
First half of Semester 2 dal Feb 26, 2018 al Apr 21, 2018.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The first aim is to clarify the differences between the Eighteenth-century transformism, especially Lamarck's theory of biological change, Darwin's evolution, and contemporary evolutionary theory. Secondly, the intention is to emphasize the implications of such debates for modern ideas concerning the place of man in nature. Therefore, interdisplinary relations with contemporary debates in philosophy and literature will be constantly emphasized. Analyzing a selection of relevant historical sources during class work, students will develop the ability to recognize topics and ways of the theorical exchange among disciplines. From both a chronological and methodological perspective, this course represents a natural sequel of the introductory course. As a result, students should be able to connect the main developments in modern culture to the rise of biological sciences. Moreover, they will acquire a deeper sensitivity toward the cognitive and social processes generating scientific innovation, enabling them to develop a critical attitude that it is essential to excercise citinzenship.


The rise and development of evolutionary theory

Ancient biology
1. Plato and Aristotle
2. Lucretius
3. Biblical creationism
4. Metamorphosis and variation in nature

Variation and stability in the Seventeenth century
5. John Ray and the idea of perfect adaptation
6. Robert Hooke and he revolutions of the globe

Variation of the species in the Eighteenth century
7. B. de Maillet and Libertinism
8. Preformation and epigenesis
9. Buffon: degeneration of the species
10. Maupertuis, Diderot
11. Linnaeus and the economy of nature
12. Charles Bonnet: the Palingénésie

Pre-darwininian transformism
13. Erasmus Darwin
14. J.B. Lamarck
15. Cuvier vs. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire

Darwin's theories
16. The origin of the ’Origin'
17. Natural theology
18. On the Origin of species (1859)
19. Human evolution

Evolutionary theories in the twenteenth-century
20. The New Sinthesis
21. Intelligent Design
22. Punctuated equilibria according to Steven J. Gould

Each lecture will be divided in two parts. During the first part, Professor will introduce the general topic in a traditional way. In the second, students will be requested to analyse and debate historical sources and essays provided in advance in Pdf format.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Barsanti, G. Una lunga pazienza cieca. Storia dell'evoluzionismo Einaudi 2005

Assessment methods and criteria

During the traditional oral interview the professor will assess the quality of the acquired information, the logic of the argumentation, the originality and autonomy of thought acquired by the student.

The student's active participation in the class work will be duly considered.