Emeriti launch a new class on CALS history

[update: the class location has been changed to 420 Henry Mall]

A lot of CALS faculty, staff and students don’t know much about history—CALS history, that is. A group of emeritus faculty and staff aim to fix that this semester, through a new class called Groundbreaking Research in The Life Sciences At the UW: Past And Present.

The course grew out of a meeting organized a few months ago by Bob Kauffman, Emeritus Professor of Animal Sciences. Kaufmann was concerned that much of the history of CALS was known only to people who were about to retire, or had already done so. Younger faculty and staff, and students, knew next to nothing about genuinely important discoveries and contributions from CALS.

“We feared that this history might be lost completely as we left the scene,” says Dave Nelson, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry, who is one of the principals in the effort. “Bob convened a group of about 25 retired CALS profs who talked, over the next six months, about how we might preserve some of this history and share it.

The idea they came up with was a course that would look at major strains of CALS research over several sessions. First, a retired or veteran professor would give a lecture describing an important development. A second lecture by a current researcher would describe work underway founded on the earlier, historic work. A third session would be a hands-on workshop related to the first two.

“We might, for example, do a Babcock butterfat test, using the equipment used by Babcock at the beginning of the twentieth century,” Nelson explains. Several of us have collections of old scientific instruments for use in such a workshop.

“(We have) the intention of continuing for a second and a third year, with different topics presented each year, so that we would eventually have worked our way through all of the departments of CALS, and talked about dozens of important contributions,” Nelson adds.

There will also be a class website with publications, photographs and other historical material. Each student in the course will be assigned to go to archival sources to learn and write about one of the people or developments featured in the course. The students could also produce videos or posters or other materials suitable for display in public forums.

The course will be open to the general public.

“We certainly hope that people in groups like PLATO will come to hear some of the presentations. We also will be inviting colleagues, graduate students, faculty and staff, to join us,” Nelson says.

The course will meet at 4:45 Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, (when many of the parking lots on campus are available to the general public) in the brand-new Biochemical Sciences Building at 420 Henry Mall, in room 1211.

More information is provided in this poster.