Biologists and the Promise of American Life: From Meriwether Lewis to Alfred Kinsey

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Princeton University Press, Feb 1, 2002 - Science - 313 pages
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Explorers, evolutionists, eugenicists, sexologists, and high school biology teachers--all have contributed to the prominence of the biological sciences in American life. In this book, Philip Pauly weaves their stories together into a fascinating history of biology in America over the last two hundred years.

Beginning with the return of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1806, botanists and zoologists identified science with national culture, linking their work to continental imperialism and the creation of an industrial republic. Pauly examines this nineteenth-century movement in local scientific communities with national reach: the partnership of Asa Gray and Louis Agassiz at Harvard University, the excitement of work at the Smithsonian Institution and the Geological Survey, and disputes at the Agriculture Department over the continent's future. He then describes the establishment of biology as an academic discipline in the late nineteenth century, and the retreat of life scientists from the problems of American nature. The early twentieth century, however, witnessed a new burst of public-oriented activity among biologists. Here Pauly chronicles such topics as the introduction of biology into high school curricula, the efforts of eugenicists to alter the "breeding" of Americans, and the influence of sexual biology on Americans' most private lives.

Throughout much of American history, Pauly argues, life scientists linked their study of nature with a desire to culture--to use intelligence and craft to improve American plants, animals, and humans. They often disagreed and frequently overreached, but they sought to build a nation whose people would be prosperous, humane, secular, and liberal. Life scientists were significant participants in efforts to realize what Progressive Era oracle Herbert Croly called "the promise of American life." Pauly tells their story in its entirety and explains why now, in a society that is rapidly returning to a complex ethnic mix similar to the one that existed for a hundred years prior to the Cold War, it is important to reconnect with the progressive creators of American secular culture.

  

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Contents

Natural History and Manifest Destiny 18001865
15
Nature in the Early Republic
17
Asa Gray American Botanical Entrepreneur
25
Gray Agassiz and the Impending Crisis
33
Darwin and the Unions Struggle for Existence
39
Culturing Fish Culturing People Federal Naturalists in the Gilded Age 18651893
44
The Struggles of Spencer Baird
45
A Golden Age in the Gilded Age
47
Summer Colonies
146
Summering Scientists
148
The Development of Woods Hole
150
Whitmans Desires
152
The Biological Community
153
Woods Hole and American Biology
158
Neglecting American Life
160
A View from the Heights
166

A Scientific Community
51
Guiding National Development
56
Evolutionary Culture
60
Conflicting Visions of American Ecological Independence
71
Americas Ecological Open Door
74
The Beginnings of a Federal Response to Pests
76
Ecological Cosmopolitanism in the Bureau of Plant Industry
80
The Return of the Nativists
84
Ecological Independence and Immigration Restriction
89
Whitmans American Biology
94
Life Science Initiatives in the Late Nineteenth Century
99
A CrossCountry Tour
103
Academic Biology Searching for Order in Life
126
American Naturalists
127
A Scientific Confederacy
131
Medical Reform Universities and Urban Life
133
Whitman and Chicago
139
Challenges to University Biology
141
A Place of Their Own The Significance of Woods Hole
145
The Development of High School Biology
171
Life in Hells Kitchen
173
Biology Education and Mental Development
179
Pedagogical Problems
185
Producing Modern Americans
191
Big Questions
194
The Rough Rider and Other Spokesmen for Science
196
Academic Biologists Address the Public
198
William Emerson Ritter and the Glory of Life
201
Good Breeding in Modern America
214
The Imperfect Amalgamation of Eugenics and Biology
215
Charles B Davenport and the Difficulty of Eugenic Research
221
Solving the Problems of Sex
227
Alfred Kinseys America
233
EPILOGUE
239
Notes
245
Index
303
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

Philip J. Pauly is Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers University.

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