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Honoursmodule: The Discovery of Nature

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  • Hans Mulder (Lecturer)
  • Bert de Roemer (Lecturer)

Entry requirements 

Second and Third year bachelor students participating in an honours programme.

Recommended prior knowledge

Some very general knowledge of history is recommended, especially from the Early Modern Period and the 19th century.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course the student can:

  • reproduce general lines, developments and concepts of the history of the natural sciences from the period 1600-1900 with the focus on natural history and biology
  • analyze, characterize and interpret canonical publications that shaped natural history and biology
  • perform an independent research into a historical source (textual or visual) present in the Artis Library
  • write an informative essay or produce an informative video about a an object present in the Artis Libary


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 humankind has viewed, researched and interpreted nature from about the sixteenth to the nineteenth century and how this relates to our present-day knowledge and attitude towards nature.

This story will be told using examples from the rich collection of the Artis Library, UvA (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 context.

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 a 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. The essay is intended to be published via the blog of the Artis Library. All meetings will be held in the impressive historical surrounding of the Artis Library.

Teaching method

  • Lecture
  • Seminar
  • Presentation/Symposium
  • Guidance/Feedback moments
  • Selfstudy
  • Work independently on project/thesis


  • in-class presentation
  • written essay or video essay
  • participation

Study material:

  • Texts will be handed through Canvas or during the meetings
  • Software: a Word processing and or video editing program (e.g. iMovie, Premiere)

Min/max participants

max. 25


The schedule will be available on Datanose 


Registration is possible for 2nd year (or higher) students participating in an Honours programme. The registration for the Honours courses will start on June 1, 10 am -  June 4, 11 pm, You can register through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS (registration is NOT through SIS)

Placement will be at random and students will be informered about their placement in the week of June 21. 

There is NO guarantee for placement if you register AFTER June 4, so make sure you apply on time! 

For questions about registration please email to: 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

Facts & Figures
Mode Honours programme
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Starts in November