Molecules Life and Disease: Twentieth Century

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to characterize the “molecular revolution” in the life sciences in its intellectual, social, cultural and political dimensions. This course will examine how the “molecular revolution” has transformed our representations of life and disease, behavior and destiny, race and identity. It will also explore the changing relationships between the life sciences and society, as well as the transformation in research practices during the 20th century. This course will cover some of the key achievements in the history of the life sciences in order to address broader historiographical issues, such as the role of technology and research practices, intellectual and political migrations, science policy and philanthropic foundations, local networks and trans-national exchanges, social construction of risks and commodification of life, politics of memory and popular representation of science. Readings will include newspapers articles, scientific papers, popular literature, autobiographies, movies, and recent historical literature in the field.

Course Texts

KAY, L.E. 1993. The Molecular Vision of Life. Oxford University Press.

Books on Reserve in Bass Library


MORANGE, M. 2000. A History of Molecular Biology

SKLOOT, R. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

MADDOX, B. Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA

WATSON, J.D. The Double Helix.