Revolutions in Biology: Past, Present, and Future
General Catalog Course Title:
Freshman Seminar
Terms Offered:
Fall 2016
Course Thread: 
Sciences and Society
Vance, Russell

Revolutions in Biology: Past, Present, and Future

In this seminar, we will discuss revolutions in biology, with a particular focus on two emerging revolutions
that have origins at UC Berkeley: the cancer immunotherapy revolution and the genetic engineering
revolution. We will begin with a discussion of Thomas Kuhn’s classic text, The Structure of Scientific
Revolutions, and ask: what is a scientific revolution? and, how do they occur? We will then examine
specific examples of revolutions in biology from the past and present, and discuss what biological
revolutions might be on the horizon. There are no assignments or presentations for this class, but active
class participation is expected. Be prepared to read and discuss as much as a (short) book a week for this
seminar. This seminar is appropriate for students interested in biology, medicine, public health, and/or history and philosophy. There will be some science content, but the science should be accessible to all students. I encourage those not intending
to major in a scientific field to attend. Much of the discussion will address broader
questions of how science works and how scientific breakthroughs or revolutions

Russell Vance has been a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology since 2006. He holds
an MA in Philosophy from Queen’s University (Canada), and a PhD in Immunology from UC Berkeley. He
runs a research lab studying how our immune system defends against bacterial infections. In the Fall, he
also teaches MCB 55 (“Plagues and Pandemics”); and in the Spring, he will teach MCB 103 (“Microbial

Faculty web site: 

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.