Spring 2006 classes

Last week I finally got my course schedule figured out:

  • American Nationalism & American Culture – Michael Kammen
  • Science, Arms and the State – Peter Westwick
  • “The American Century”, 1941-1961 – Jean-Christophe Agnew

I’m also taking French for Reading, auditing a bioinformatics class and sitting in on Lloyd Ackert’s History of Ecology. Up until the middle of the week I was still hoping to take Advanced Topics in Macroevolution, the syllabus of which consisted of going through Stephen Jay Gould’s The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Being that I’m an historian of evolutionary biology, have audited a graduate-level evo course, and have a fairly broad science background in general, I figured this would be perfect for me, and Ole encouraged me to take it as a graded class instead of an audit. But the professor, who just returned from vacation and returned my messages on Monday, will not let me take it because I don’t have enough graded coursework as relevant background; she says it would be unfair to the other students (paleontology grad students) to let me in. I wrote her a caustic email about how, in fact, it was unfair to her students not to have me there. But only in my head.

But aside from driving to New Haven 4 days a week (probably 5 on weeks with job talks, like this week), this semester should be really good; the Westwick and Agnew courses are superb so far, and the Kammen course was awkward at first but is getting better. The department is now going to administer language tests internally, and I expect to be able to pass French at the end of this semester. The bioinformatics class (in the statistics department) has been really enjoyable so far; I forgot how fun math can be. And Lloyd’s class is really small (two undergrads, and me), so I get to show of my book learnin’ and have nice informal discussions with Lloyd twice a week about various historical topics related to the cycle of life.

The Wikipedia history of science project that I started is going really well; it’s up to 19 participants. I’ve decided to take advantage of my access to Yale, so I’m going to try to periodically find well-illustrated old science books that haven’t made their way to Beinecke yet, scan illustrations, and put them on Wikipedia. This week, I checked out Ernst Haeckel’s incredible Kunstformen der Natur (1899), a 13 inch folio with 100 full-page illustrations, many of them in color. I’ve scanned sea anemones, orchids, nepenthes, and ammonites so far.