General biology; (1913) PDF book by James George Needham

General biology; a book of outlines and practical studies for the general student

General biology


Excerpt from the introduction:


This book offers a series of practical studies of biological phenomena for the guidance of the general student. It is not a formal text, and not at all a treatise, but only a guide intended to assist the student in acquiring for himself some real knowledge of living nature. It differs chiefly from other books intended for the use of college classes in the wider range of studies it offers, some important phases of biology having hitherto been dismissed with mere didactic instruction. 


Morphology has dominated — often monopolized — college work in biology in the past; doubtless, because it was first reduced to pedagogic form, and made available for laboratory instruction. A more equable treatment is here attempted, in the hope of leading the student to a practical acquaintance with elementary phenomena in the whole broad field. The generation of biologists which began its studies with Huxley and Martin's pioneer laboratory manual has witnessed a marvelous expansion of biological knowledge. Departments have sprung up, and teachers, as well as practitioners, have specialized, and courses have multiplied amazingly. 
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Yet I am persuaded that the reasons given by Huxley and Martin for offering a general course are as valid today as they were in 1868. Indeed I am inclined to think that some added reasons have grown out of the increasing applications of biological knowledge to the practical affairs of life. The conditions of our living make ever-increasing demands for knowledge of life phenomena, and some comprehension of biological principles is fast becoming a part of the common intelligence.  We are organisms; and out of that fact grow the fundamental relations that general biology bears to a whole wide range of special sciences, the threshold of which may, I hope, be reached by those who follow the course here outlined. After Chapter I, which is introductory, the studies of chapter II should lead up to physiology* algology, mycology, bacteriology, protozoology, etc., those of chapter III, to morphology, comparative anatomy, embryology, palaeontology and special botany and zoology; those of chapter IV, to c3rtology and eugenics; those of chapter V, to ecology, and limnology; those of chapter VI, to pathology, experimental biology, etc.; those of chapter VII, to neurology, psychology, sociology and ethnology. And in the broader sense of these terms, many more special sciences are included. In the preparation of this course I have had in mind the needs of the great majority of college students, who may hardly spend more "than a year in this subject. 

Certainly, no other subject touches their lives at so many important points. What will best serve their needs? has been the question constantly before me; not. What has been taught hitherto? Ecological and evolutionary phenomena are just as available for practical studies as are morphological types, and I have introduced them freely, although not without pangs of regret for the good things of former courses that had to be omitted to make room. I have reduced to a minimum the directions for the laboratory study of morphological types, for excellent outlines are everywhere available for work of this sort; and I have given a larger place to outlines for fieldwork and experimental studies. I have arranged the subject matter to suit the seasons of the college year. I have included more than a year's work in order that selections might be made. For pedagogic reasons, I have introduced the first phenomena of some familiarity, postponing more technical matters. 


Mere technique has no part in this course. Pacts are neither better nor worse for educational purposes because of technical difficulties that may or may not stand in the way of their acquisition; and therefore, other things being equal I have given preference to such observations as are most likely to be continued after the work of the college course is ended. The purpose of the introduction given for each subject is to orient the student for the work assigned — not to replace the lecture or the recitation. I have tried to tell what he should know in order to outline what he should do, and I have tried so to shape the conclusion of his work as to invite a little thinking. During the past seven years I have been seeking methods that would facilitate the handling of bodies of facts sufficiently large for satisfactory illustration of general biological principles and phenomena. Many new exercises have been tried by my classes in the field and laboratory; the ones that have proved most serviceable are included in the following pages. Herein are detailed the methods I have found most available. 


The materials used are of less consequence. I have used whatever lay nearest at hand, only seeking to draw my materials from a wide range of groups, in order to extend the acquaintance of the student with the face of nature. In so far as it has been necessary to touch upon theoretical questions, it has been my purpose, not to advance any biological theories but to bring the student into practical contact with the facts underlying all the theories. The field of biology is so vast that no one can claim expert knowledge in any considerable portion of it. It is very probable, therefore, that in covering so much ground in even so elementary a manner, I have made some mistakes. I can only hope that they may not be of such nature as to seriously mislead or confuse the student and that I may have the further aid of generous colleagues toward their early elimination. 


Many of my colleagues and former pupils have helped me with valuable suggestions and I would be glad if there were space to thank them all; and I cannot refrain from making mention of the special help that has been given me by Professors J. H. Comstock, W. A. Riley, G. F. Atkinson, B. M. Duggar, B. F. Kingsbury, I. M. Bentley, A. Hunter, R. H. McKee and Drs. A. H. Wright and W. A. Hilton on the part of the proofs that they have seen. Others of my colleagues have generously loaned me valuable portraits, concurring in my belief, that it would be worthwhile to introduce the faces of at least a few of the great pioneers of biology unobtrusively into the students' intellectual environment.

Who is James George Needham   

James George Needham was an American entomologist. After studying with John Henry Comstock at Cornell University he taught biology at Lake Forest University. In 1908 returned to Cornell as assistant professor of limnology

 
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