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This interactive online Biology textbook is for a two-semester comprehensive course —plus additional material at the school board’s and teacher’s discretion—, suitable for high school–, advanced placement–, and college introductory classes.
The text is a historically-grounded look at Biology as an experimental science. For instance, the first chapter introduces the concept of the scientific method and experimental science and includes a current real-world example of an experiment in progress. Chapter 12, about evolution, shows how Darwin’s breakthrough was dependent upon concepts developed by geologist Charles Lyell and the social critic Thomas Malthus. Natural selection is explained with reference to Darwin’s finches and is contrasted with artificial selection as practiced by animal breeders and botanists. In the chapter on systematics, it is shown how the perceived “tree of life” has changed as new data has accumulated; how Kingdom Protista, for instance, has splintered into new principalities. Biology is not presented just as a given set of facts but as the product of scientists seeking to explain natural phenomena in an historical context.
The text can be divided into sections. After the introductory first chapter, the Biology and biochemistry of cells is covered in chapters 2-10. Chapter 11 is an introduction to embryology, how a single cell becomes an organism. Chapters 12 through 18 is all about evolution, speciation, systematics, and the types of different organisms, with chapters devoted to prokaryotes, protists, plants, fungi and animals. Chapter 19 is an optional chapter for those who wish to know more about the anatomy and physiology of plants. Chapters 20 through 29 covers the anatomy and physiology of vertebrates, with humans as the prime example, but with reference to comparative anatomy.
The last three chapters of the book are stand-alone introductions to important aspects of Biology. Chapter 30 is about animal behavior, including discussions of instinct, imprinting, learning, communication, flocking and herding behaviors, altruism, and the development of animal societies. Chapter 31 is about viruses, their life cycles, and their role in human diseases. Chapter 32 introduces the important subject of ecology, including the types of ecosystems and energy flow in and between them. There is a discussion on ongoing conservation efforts and a of climate change as it relates to extinction events of the past and the one in progress.
After each chapter, there are multiple choice questions that are asked in random order. If the student picks the wrong answer, he is supplied with the correct answer and an explanation of why the answer he picked was wrong. Many of the questions include diagrams or pictures wherein the student is expected to identify elements of anatomy or microanatomy or histological sections.
The Biology textbook is liberally supplied with pictures and diagrams, including many illustrations lifted from the work of pioneer naturalists like Charles Darwin and Ernst Haeckel. It is designed for a course to be both rigorous and entertaining.
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