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The natural sciences have a rich history, which is closely interwoven with other fields of knowledge such as geography, anthropology, economy and the arts. This course aims to introduce and illuminate that history in its context. Central is the question: How has humankind viewed, researched and interpreted nature from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century? And how does this relate to our present-day knowledge and attitude towards nature?

This story will be told using examples from the rich collection of the UvA Artis Library: manuscripts, printed works and illustrations. Examples of natural researchers that will be discussed are Ulisse Aldrovandi, Maria Sibylla Merian, Carl Linnaeus, Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin. The works these researchers created will be placed in their historical, social, philosophical and cognitive contexts. 

The Artis Library also provides the research material for this course. Each student chooses a source from the rich holdings of the library (antique printed books, manuscripts, prints) and independently conducts research, preferably viewed from their own disciplinary background and interests. This research results in a written and illustrated essay and/or a video essay for a wider audience. All meetings will be held in the impressive historical surroundings of the Artis Library. 

The video below is an example of the end result of the research project of Ana and Gabija, two Honours students who successfully completed the course in 2021, on German naturalist and scientific illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian:


The schedule will be available on Datanose


Registration is open to second-year or third-year Bachelor's students participating in an Honours programme. Between 8 June 10 am and 12 June 11 pm, you can register by completing the online registration form that will appear on our website Honoursmodules IIS.  

Please note: Registration is not through SIS. Placement is at random. There is no guarantee for placement if you register after June 12, so make sure you register on time. You will hear which course(s) you are registered for in the week of 20 June.  

If you have any questions, please contact us at Honours-iis@uva.nl

SDGs in education

The IIS strives to reflect current societal issues and challenges in our elective courses, honours modules and degree programmes and attempts to integrate the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this course. For more information about these goals, please visit the SDGs website.

More information

Facts & Figures
Honours programme
Language of instruction
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