User:LGreg/sandbox/Approaches to Knowledge (LG seminar 2020/21)/Seminar 18/History/History of Biology

Biology and the History of Biology edit

Biology is considered a natural science, focusing on the physical world aiming to predict and understand natural phenomena [1] through carrying out experiments with specific methodologies for this discipline and collecting qualitative and quantitative data. Biology itself is defined as "a branch of knowledge that deals with living organisms and vital processes" [2] looking at the "structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, and distribution of living organisms" [3]. Within Biology, there are three major branches; Microbiology (looking at cellular organisms), Zoology (focusing on animals, anatomy and physiology), and Botany (focusing on plants). [4]. Biology and in particular the field of medicine within Biology can be dated back to ancient Egyptian times(1800BC) and ancient China (2500BC) in which the earliest medical texts are known from [5], major advancements within Biology could be seen with the discovery of the microscope by Robert Hooke in 1665 [6] which caused a paradigm shift as it was once believed that "living organisms were composed of endlessly divisible fluid or indivisible subunits"[7] (this belief stemmed from ancient Greece), this discovery enabled scientists to discover that living organisms were, in fact, composed of "the smallest possible units of life"[8]called cells (also known as cell theory). The discovery of the helical structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953 is believed to have triggered the "Biological Revolution" in which biological fields such as medicine saw major advancements[9]. Fields such as epidemiology in Biology could be seen as vitally important today during the coronavirus pandemic where scientists try to predict and observe patterns of diseases in order to reduce causalities. The ongoing discovery of knowledge about genetics has had a major impact on many industries, especially agriculture. Genetically modified organisms (GMO's) are used widely nowadays and increase crop yields while also posing potential risks as long-term effects are still unknown [10]. The field of genetics is likely to only grow in importance as new gene editing technologies like CRISPR may help in the fight against cancer and other genetic diseases [11]. These gene editing technologies already pose very important ethical questions about how these technologies can be used ethically and how to prevent unethical use, especially when it comes to human embryos [12]. It is high time for governments to make worldwide legislative decisions on gene editing practices since gene editing has alredy been used on human embryos, e.g. a Chinese researcher has modified the genome of two babies in an attempt to make them immune against HIV in 2018 [13].

The Scientific Method within Biology edit

One of the key characteristics of Biology as a discipline is the method involved when carrying out experiments. When looking at scientific experiments in Biology a certain method is followed, this (rough) method is commonly taught within Biology to students:
1. Form a hypothesis.
2. Develop an experiment by establishing an independent, dependent, and controlled variable.
3. Collect quantitative and qualitative data.
4. Repeat experiment multiple times.
5. Analyse data and establish any anomalies.
6. Compare the results of the experiment to your hypothesis to decide the extent to which the hypothesis is true and determine whether to accept it or not. [14]

Biology as a discipline edit

Although Biology has been prevalent throughout human history, modern biology did not become a discipline (in which you could obtain a degree, certificate, professor, etc.) until recently in around the 19th century. For instance, one of the first biological departments in England was founded at University College London in 1828, when the Department of Physiology was founded, and in 1905 when the Department of Pharmacology was founded. [15] Additionally, the first Nobel prize in Biological sciences was awarded to Emil Adolf von Behring in 1901 for Physiology or Medicine.

Bibliography edit

  1. Richard van de Lagemaat, 26 May 2011, Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma Full Colour Edition [1]
  2. Merriam- Webster [2]
  3. Mary Bagley, 10 August 2017, Live Science [3]
  4. Mary Smith, 20 March 2020, oneHOWTO [4]
  5. Mary Bagley, 10 August 2017, Live Science [5]
  6. Mary Bagley, 10 August 2017, Live Science [6]
  7. Andrew Allot, 2014, Biology for the IB Diploma, pg 1
  8. Andrew Allot, 2014, Biology for the IB Diploma, pg 1
  9. Mary Bagley, 10 August 2017, Live Science [7]
  10. Barrell A. Pros and cons of GMO foods: Health and environment [Internet]. 2019 [cited 10 November 2020]. Available from:
  11. Couzin-Frankel J. Cutting-edge CRISPR gene editing appears safe in three cancer patients [Internet]. Science | AAAS. 2020 [cited 10 November 2020]. Available from:
  12. What are the Ethical Concerns of Genome Editing? [Internet]. [cited 10 November 2020]. Available from:
  13. Raposo V. The First Chinese Edited Babies: A Leap of Faith in Science [Internet]. 2019 [cited 10 November 2020]. Available from:
  14. Britannica, Scientific Method [8]
  15. History of Life Sciences at UCL [9]