To Conserve Man

Bison from Civic BiologyTo our Rachel Carson-tuned ears, the word conservation means allowing nature to hold sway, to designate areas as wetlands, protected habitats and forever wild, to be humble and accept that nature is usually smarter than we are. But to biology textbook authors in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, influenced by the eugenic ideas of Henry Fairfield Osborn, Madison Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and others, conservation meant something else entirely. It meant first, preserving select symbols of American virility, like the redwood tree, the bison, and most importantly, their own “great race,” and second, managing the rest of nature – forests, water resources, wildlife, and soil – so that it could be exploited maximally without collapse.

How Are We Going to Control These Kids? Biology Textbooks in the 1940s

By 1940, biology’s core eugenics-based narrative had been dramatically weakened. Yet the demand for a curriculum that could control adolescent sexuality, had, if anything, only increased since the 1920s. Worries about what their sons and daughters were getting up to in the backseats of their new cars or in the sketchy motor courts popping up at the edge of town provided a fertile landscape for experimentation, even in a down market.

Jim Endersby’s Textbook Database

TitleDateAuthor(s)PublisherLvlTypeEugenics 0-5Evolution 0-5 Elements of Biology1907Hunter, George WilliamAmerican Book Company, New YorkHSPhylogenetic00 None beyond that implied by the phylogenetic structure. First Course in Biology*1908Bailey, L. H.; Coleman, Walter MMacmillan, New YorkHSPhylogenetic01 Some content on evolution – which text equates with progress and complexity – integrated into sections on reptiles and bacteria, similar to Smallwood (except…

Where’d Hugo Go?

Darwin and De VriesDutch botanist Hugo de Vries gained global fame in the first decades of the twentieth century for being the guy who finally figured out how evolution worked. Today he is all but forgotten. Should he stay that way? Or are their good reasons to remember “dead end” scientific theories and the people who loved them?

Database: Eugenics in College Biology Textbooks

TitleDateAuthor(s)PublisherEugenics 0-5 An Introduction to General Biology1904Sedgwick, William T. (M) MIT; Wilson, Edmund B. (M) ColumbiaHenry Holt and Company, New York0 No mention Biology1912Conn, Herbert William (M) WeslyanSilver, Burdett, Boston0 No mention The Principles of Biology1913Hamaker, J. I. (M) Randolph-Macon Woman’s CollegeP. Blakiston’s Son and Company, Philadelphia 0 No mention Biology1914Calkins, Gary N. (M) ColumbiaHenry…

Biology’s Bomb: Graphing “Explosive” Population Growth in Cold War Textbooks

January 29, 2011 Prior to World War II, America’s protectors thought the country’s innocence could be guarded at its gates. Citizen biologists saw the nation’s border as kind of cartographic diaphragm, not entirely reliable in individual instances, but adequate to the task of containing the pool of potential breeders. But conflict had led to contact,…