Share page: 

History of the Department of Biology

Academics: Courses and Curriculum

The early bulletins or catalogs published by the Normal School give some hint of the types of courses offered by the Department and the curriculum offered. Biology did not begin as a “major” in the sense in which we use the word today – to train biologists. The school trained teachers and teachers needed to be competent in their disciplines.

According to Bawden, “majors” leading to teaching certificates first appeared in the announcement for 1912-1913. A major needed 30 hours, but two minors of 15 hours each were needed from other departments. Teachers planning on secondary education in smaller schools tried to receive wide training (not unlike today). Biological Sciences would have served either need.

The Announcement dated September 1, 1910 provides a glimpse into the very early department:

“The purpose of the courses in biology is to give to the student that knowledge of botany, zoology, physiology, and bacteriology which he needs in order to produce the best conditions of life for himself and for those depending on him. It is impossible to live effectively or to control the biological forces conditioning the existence not only of man, but of plants and animals as well, without a knowledge of biological laws.

The laboratories are well equipped to give the courses offered in biology. The equipment consists of twenty-five new compound microscopes, with one oil-immersion. Dissecting microscopes, prepared microscopic slides for histologic embryology and bacteriology, some four hundred lantern slides for demonstrations, microtomes, ovens, glassware and stain for histological studies, and incubators, sterilizers and glassware for cultural work in bacteriology.”

The early courses were listed on two levels – “Normal Secondary” courses for the high school and “Normal College” courses. The announcement for 1916-1917 listed courses under the heading, "Agriculture." In the announcement of the 1918 Summer Session, "Botany," was added as a heading. The headings were expanded to "Biology," "Physiology, Hygiene and Public Health," and "Agriculture" in the announcement for1919-1920. The course headings "Biology," "Bacteriology," "Physiology and Hygiene" were used from the 1920-1931 announcement until the early 1950s.

The courses listed below from 1910-1913 sound very familiar to the modern ear. They are a combination of the scientific and technical with the practical.

The Sep. 1, 1910 Announcement listed the courses offered:

  • Course 1. Botany. This is a study of the flowerless plants. Emphasis is placed on the relation of these forms to the everyday life of the student. Recitations, laboratory work or field trips daily.

  • Course 2. Botany. This is a continuation of course 1, and includes a study of the seed plants. The life habits of these plants are studied in the field, agricultural plot and laboratory.

  • Course 3. Zoology. This course includes a study of the more important animals of the farm, orchard and household. It is largely a study of the life habits of the economic species of the Middle West.

  • Course 4. Physiology and Hygiene. A study of the human body, with special reference to its needs as to fresh air, food, exercise, sleep and clothing.

  • Course 1. Botany. This course covers the same ground as courses. 1 and 2 in the Normal Secondary work, but emphasizes different topics. It is intended for those who have had botany in the high school or who are advance students in the Normal College.

  • Course 2. Bacteriology. This course is intended especially for the domestic students, but is open to all students in the Normal College. Besides bacteriology it includes a study of the more important fungi of the household.

  • Course 3. Plant histology. This is a laboratory course in which the student becomes familiar with the methods in plant histology.

  • Course 4. Zoology. A study of the life habits of the economic species of the farm, orchard and household. Types of the different phyla of the invertebrates will be dissected.

  • Course 5. Animal histology and embryology. This is a laboratory course in which the student is given an opportunity to make preparations of the animal tissues and to study their microscopical structure. Six weeks is devoted to the chick embryo.

  • Course 6. Physiology. This is a course in human physiology. There are daily recitations, with laboratory dissections and microscopic work. Instruction is given in the practical applications of the methods of modern sanitary science.

  • Course 7. Agriculture. This course treats of the modern problems in agriculture and the methods of teaching this subject in the grades and secondary schools. The student is expected to work out assigned experiments in the experimental plot and laboratory.

The July 1912 Announcement lists the courses offered:

  • Courses 1 and 2. General Biology. These courses are designed to serve as an introduction to the elementary forms and forces of living nature. Here the student becomes acquainted with the common animals and plants that enter into the practical activities of the home and farm. Much of the work in the fall and spring is done out of doors. Required of second-year-students in all groups. Daily for one year.

  • Course 3. Nature Study. This course aims to adapt zoology and botany to elementary instruction, and is designed especially for teachers in the city schools. It attempts to answer the question, "What knowledge of living forms is suitable to children between the ages of six and fifteen?" The animal and plant life of this locality is fairly abundant and varied. The agricultural plot furnishes an excellent opportunity for gardening and horticulture. Required of all students in group 4. Daily, spring and summer term, twenty weeks.

  • Courses 4 and 5. Elementary Zoology. These courses present a connected study of the function and structure of animal types selected to illustrate the development of the animal kingdom. Systematic work is done with the insects and, different groups of the vertebrates. A course of lectures covering the history of Biology is given each week, one day, followed by a series of lectures on Evolution and Heredity daily throughout the year. Elective to third- and fourth-year students.

  • Courses 6 & 7. Elementary Agriculture

  • Course 8. Animal Husbandry

  • Course 9. Plant Husbandry

  • Course 11. General Biology. This course serves as an introduction to the other biological sciences and aims to acquaint the student with the elementary forms and forces of nature. Types for study are selected as far as possible from the common plants and animals of the farm and home. Required of all students who major in biology, elective to all others. Daily throughout the year. Ten hours credit.

  • Course 12. General Bacteriology

  • Course 13. Household Bacteriology

  • Course 14. Agricultural Bacteriology

  • Course 15. Household Biology and Sanitation

  • Course 16. Histology and Embryology

  • Course 17. Human Physiology

  • Course 18. Plant Physiology

  • Course 19. Plant Pathology

  • Course 20. Systematic Botany

  • Course 21. Invertebrate Zoology

  • Course 22. Vertebrate Zoology

  • Course 23. History of Biology

The June 1913 Announcement (1913-1914) lists this course:

Course 15. Eugenics. This course is designed for the domestic science student, but is open to all students of college grade. A careful review of the literature on heredity and eugenics is given, together with a study of the law of reproduction.

Outside of Class:

Summer sessions were a part of the early University. President Brandenburg wanted to bring in “inspiring speakers and natural leaders in various lines of educational theory and practice.” In 1917, one of those speakers was Dr. C.F. Hodge, professor of biological sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.

We are familiar today with Spring Break trips and summer field excursions. The year 1918 was no different when, “under the direction” of Dr. Dellinger, there was a cross-country hike and trips to the Spring River, the Farlington tree farm, the Neosho and government hatchery, and the annual trip to Noel.