Presentation skills

Lecture notes by Geoffrey Beale illustrating crossing over in Neurospora, 1940s(Coll-1255)

Lecture notes by Geoffrey Beale illustrating crossing over in Neurospora, 1940s (Coll-1255)

Giving lectures is a prominent aspect of working life for many academics, as the animal genetics archives here at Edinburgh University Library Special Collections show. Most of the collections of scientists’ personal papers contain information relating to academic and public lectures given, and frequently also include copies of the lectures themselves, some dating back as far as the 1940s. This material gives a fascinating insight into how genetics teaching has changed and evolved over the decades, but we don’t always hear about the experience of lecturing from the point of view of the listening students. Anecdotes occasionally survive about teachers who were particularly memorable (for both good and bad reasons!). James Cossar Ewart, Professor of Natural History at the University from 1882-1927, was instrumental in establishing genetics as an academic subject at the University of Edinburgh in the early twentieth century, but his reputation as a lecturer is not quite as gilded. One of his students, Maurice Yonge, remembered that Ewart’s lectures were ‘conducted amid scenes of riot and general pandemonium, Ewart…being unable to control the class. Indeed, at times…so chaotic were the proceedings, that only the movement of Ewart’s large walrus moustache indicated he was still lecturing.’ On the other hand, the first director of the Institute of Animal Genetics, F.A.E. Crew, was a charismatic and inspiring teacher, as his friend and colleague Lancelot Hogben recalled: Continue reading