Friday, January 9, 2009

Who is on your list? and how can they not know what I know?

So, two years ago I started by botany class by having the students name the their list of great biologists (and then I tried to explain how all of them related to botany-- the point being that botany is "regular biology", just with a plant context). It was fun because the previous day the then other prof. (a fish geneticist and reproductive physiologist) and I had discussed our lists (of fewer than six: I don't want to use a particular number in this post because I don't want students to end up here if I assign this) at with a little argument, they were nearly identical. Darwin and Wallace; Watson, Crick and Franklin; Linnaeus; and Mendel made both of our lists. Then we discussed if the last place should go to evolutionary synthesis (Hardy and Weinberg or Fisher and Wright), someone with diseases (Pasteur, Koch, Alexander Fleming or one of the microscope dudes), someone biochemical (Calvin or Krebs or someone else she knew) or someone that we just thought was cool (Barbara McClintock).

This year, I bring up with the subject with my colleagues and they keep listing all of these people I have never heard of (Vetner, Goldman-Huxley-Katz, Southerland, Baltimore, Alvarez, Speeman, Krogh, human genome, GFP people . . .) and they have never heard of Ronald Fisher or Sewall Wright. One (who, to his credit, may not have known I was going for a fewer than six list) just keeps spewing out names in immunology and biochem and I want to shout, "You'd kick off Mendel for someone recent in immunology? I don't care if we're in different fields. I didn't put up any ecologists or real botanists."

Somehow this is upsetting. Probably because it was so reassuring when we did it two years ago, which made me feel that we were really covering essential biology and now I'm really wondering if we have anything approaching consensus about what essential biology is.

So, who's on your list?


Molly said...

I would have come up with your original list, but then again, we did go to the same school at the same time...