Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Biology curricula
Scope and Contents of the Collection
This collection documents the curricula of the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Early study of bacteriology is documented in an 1892 volume of notes by W. T. Sedgwick, former head of the department.
The bulk of this collection concerns Course 7.00J/15.60J, “AIDS: Scientific Challenge and Human Challenge.” Introduced in 1988 (1) and offered again in 1989, this was one of the first courses about AIDS. It was an interdisciplinary course taught by David Baltimore, professor of biology, and Mary Rowe, special assistant to the president and adjunct professor of management. This course began as one of nine experimental pilot courses on “Human Contexts of Science and Technology” which were taught by two or more faculty members from different schools (2). Materials from this course include syllabi, handouts, articles, and audiocassettes of course lectures. These materials primarily appear to document the fall 1988 and 1989 offerings of Course 7.00J/15.60J.
(1) MIT Reports to the President 1988-89, p. 425.
(2) MIT Reports to the President 1987-88, p. 9-10, 122.
- 1892, 1986-1990
- Majority of material found within 1987 - 1989
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biology (Organization)
This collection is open.
Conditions Governing Use
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In 1871 a new course, Course 7, in natural history was established at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under professors Samuel Kneeland and Alpheus Watt. With the addition of William Thompson Sedgwick in 1883, the program became known for its work in microbiology and public health. At the same time, Sedgwick set up a curriculum, Course 7-B, designed to train students planning to enter the medical profession.
In 1889 a new Department of Biology replaced Course 7 in natural history; the new department not only included premedical training, but also emphasized bacteriology and sanitary biology. Studies in water supplies, food supplies, and bacteriology of foods led to a change in the name of the department in 1911 to the Department of Biology and Public Health. During this period Samuel Prescott’s collaboration with William L. Underwood led to the development of procedures for the sterilization of canned foods which were basic to the development of the canned foods industry.
In 1936 a committee composed of MIT President Karl T. Compton, Vice President Vannevar Bush, and Professor John W. M. Bunker proposed that MIT develop a new type of biology–biological engineering–which would utilize basic knowledge of physics, mathematics, and chemistry, as well as several fields of engineering. Training in public health was abandoned in 1942 and the department name was changed to the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering. As teaching and research related to food continued to develop, a separate Department of Food Technology was established in 1944, and the department’s name changed once again to the Department of Biology. The department was reorganized in 1955 and molecular biology was further developed with emphasis on biophysics, biochemistry, microbiology, and physiology-developmental biology. A strong program for post-doctoral training of MDs as well as PhDs was developed.
In 1962 Francis O. Schmitt organized the Neurosciences Research Program, which emphasized an understanding of brain function based on neurophysiology. The program remained at MIT until 1982 when it moved to Rockefeller University. As the research program continued to expand, a clinical research center was established in 1964 to provide facilities for faculty to conduct research with human patients and volunteers, and in December 1965 a new center for life sciences was established with the dedication of the Whitaker Building (building 56).
Periodic reviews of the curriculum kept the programs current with new developments in the discipline, and more classes in genetics and biochemistry were added to the course in the late 1970s and 1980s. During the 1970s and the 1980s increased research in cell and molecular biology, microbiology, and immunology resulted in the establishment of the Center for Cancer Research (ca. 1972), first directed by Salvador Luria, and in the late 1970s the Program in Health Sciences and Technology, later the Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology. In 1982 the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research was established at MIT; first headed by David Baltimore, it greatly expanded the number of faculty in the department and strengthened the research program. In the late 1980s attention was focused on remedying the department’s space problems, and in 1994 a new biology building opened (building 68), providing modern facilities for teaching and research programs in human health and disease, cancer, and AIDS.
The history of the Department of Biology is also available at http://libraries.mit.edu/mithistory/research/schools-and-departments/school-of-science/department-of-biology/.
Heads of the Department
- William T. Sedgwick
- Samuel C. Prescott
- Francis O. Schmitt
- Irwin W. Sizer
- Boris Magasanik
- Gene M. Brown
- Maurice Fox
- Richard O. Hynes
- Phillip Sharp
- Robert T. Sauer
- Chris Kaiser
- Tania Baker
- 2014 - present
- Alan D. Grossman
1.13 Cubic Feet (1 record carton, 1 audiocassette box)
Language of Materials
This collection documents the curricula of the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Studies in Biology began at MIT in 1871, when a course in natural history (Course 7) was established. In 1889, a new Department of Biology replaced the Course 7. Early study of bacteriology is documented in this collection by an 1892 volume of notes by W. T. Sedgwick, former head of the department. Over the course of its existence, the department underwent several shifts in focus. By the 1970s and the 1980s, the department increased its research in cell and molecular biology, microbiology, and immunology. In 1982, the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research was established at MIT headed by David Baltimore. The bulk of the collection consists of course materials for an interdisciplinary course on AIDS offered in 1988 and 1989. This course, “AIDS: Scientific Challenge and Human Challenge” (7.00J/15.60J) was taught by Baltimore and Mary Rowe of the Sloan School of Management. Materials documenting this class include syllabi, handouts, articles, and audiocassettes of course lectures.
Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.
Processing Information note
Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- History Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biology
- curricula Subject Source: Thesaurus for Use in College and University Archives
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biology (Organization)
- Guide to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Biology Curricula
- Ready For Review
- Language of description
- Script of description
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