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Go inside the classroom

What did famous scientists actually say when they taught courses in their specialties? What information did they, in fact, convey? How did they structure their thinking? To answer these questions, student notes are primary sources of fundamental importance. With rare exceptions, those notes are the first objects consigned to the dust bin of history. But not always.

“They taught me” is a series dedicated to providing historians with primary source materials created in the classroom and by other audiences. Most will be in the form of student notes, the daily record of presentations.

The famous geneticist, Sewall Wright

Sewall Wright taught throughout his long career. Between 1926-1955, he worked at the University of Chicago. During this time, he developed and taught both undergraduate and graduate courses. By the early 1930s, Wright’s teaching load settled into a core set of four courses:

  • Fundamental Genetics (Zoology 310)
  • Biometry (Zoology 311)
  • Physiological Genetics (Zoology 312)
  • Evolution (Zoology 313)

The notes reproduced in the series were written by a student attending three of Wright’s core courses during 1951-1952. Robert E. Sloan, a master’s student with an interest in paleontology and evolution, wrote these notes.

  • more on the books (link)
  • more on Robert E. Sloan, see his oral history (link)


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