HPSC0023 Evolution in Science and Culture (Teaching)

HPSC0023 Evolution in Science and Culture, a course taught by Professor Joe Cain, UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS).
HPSC2013 Module Evaluations - Evolution in Science and Culture - Professor Joe Cain
What do students say? HPSC2013 2017-18 Module evaluations from students.

A historical survey of evolutionary thinking from the Enlightenment to the present. Content includes the history of scientific ideas and the context for those ideas. It also considers the influence of evolutionary ideas, especially Darwin and Darwinism, on society and vice versa.

Professor Joe Cain teaches HPSC0023 at UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS). This course has had two module codes in the past: HPSC2013 and HPSC3027. It was last offered in the 2017-18 session. It’ll be significantly overhauled for the new 2022-23 session.

About this module


  • 1×3000-word essay



Comments about the module

From the students

  • “This was such an interesting and enjoyable module. The tutor’s enthusiasm was evident. I never knew Darwin could be so interesting.”
  • “Tutor was so passionate about subject. My favourite module in STS. Handouts very helpful. Never felt pressured or intimidated as in other lectures, very relaxed. Exam format is great, no tricks!”
  • “Everything was great. No improvements needed.”
  • “I really enjoyed these lectures, the entire course was consistently enjoyable.”


As an advanced module, HPSC0023 pursues several kinds of goals. To develop knowledge of content in the history and context of evolutionary studies, this module surveys major themes, actors, and conceptual shifts – in short, what are the big ideas associated with evolution and Darwinism? It seeks to integrate broad historical themes and contexts into this survey.

Primary sources are the foundation of required readings for this module so students may develop skills working with original source materials: their reading, weighting, and critical assessment. To further develop skills in textual analysis and critical assessment, attention will be paid to close reading of secondary materials from different types of sources. This module also asks critical questions about historiography.

The teaching method for this module during contact hours will be lectures and in-class discussions. A schedule of independent reading and research also is set. Module assessment is integrated into this programme.


By the end of this module students should be able to:

  • demonstrate content knowledge for the module’s domain and historiographical insight into relevant scholarly literature
  • demonstrate the ability to critically interpret both primary and secondary sources
  • demonstrate skill in historical reasoning and comparative analysis
  • approach new material in this module’s domain from a historical perspective and with a critical historian’s eye
  • demonstrate an appreciation for principles of historical contingency, myth making, and icon construction

Module plan

Student responsibilities in this module will revolve around two components: lectures and a research paper.

In-class sessions

A lecture schedule is set. Lectures are related to specific required reading. Lectures critically survey key content and historiography relevant to each themes. This also includes discussions of set readings. Students are encouraged to come to lecture having read and reflected on readings set for the lecture. Specific discussions will be announced in advance. Additional readings and Web sites are suggested for continued investigation of module topics.

The plan is to teach this module face-to-face in person on the Bloomsbury campus. This will change if pandemic circumstances require, but the hope is to be in person.