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Doctoral studies > PhD dissertations UAB

Raimon Sucarrats i Riera
L'ensenyament de la història natural a la Barcelona de la primera meitat del segle XIX. Els llibres de text i la docència d'Agustí Yàñez i Girona (2 vols.)
Supervisor/s: José Pardo Tomás
Date of defense: 12-05-2006

The Lecciones de Historia Natural (Natural History Lessons) by Agustí Yàñez were published in Barcelona in two different versions, the first one in 1820 and the second one in 1844/1845. This present work analyses the main features of these textbooks, the context that made their publication possible and the way they were used in Barcelona’s Pharmacy School of San Victoriano and other academic institutions in the first half of 19th century.

First of all, it has been demonstrated that textbooks give valuable knowledge of different aspects of the science of an epoch. As regards Yàñez’ textbooks, structure, circumstances that led their generation, repercussion and different sources and dependences have been examined. It has also been studied how Yàñez used didactical recourses in the explanation of those topics that were related to experimentation, and how he understood the function of illustrations in textbooks aimed at beginners.

On the other hand, this work analyses the great tendencies in the European natural history of the 19th century, according to Barcelona’s naturalists. In order to reach this goal, a large number of lectures about natural history presented to the Academy of Sciences of Barcelona have been looked through. Moreover, the whole contents of both Lecciones have been exhaustively studied. The contents of both versions were not only influenced by the conceptual context, but also by the educational one: the pupils who read the book and the kind of studies they were attending. The analysis of both textbooks and other Yàñez’ works shows significant differences between those contents aimed at pupils of a pharmacy school and the real scientific ideas of his author, sometimes very close to those of Lamarck.

This work also offers a panoramic vision of Lecciones’ author, a very renowned personality during the first half of the 19th century in Barcelona, and of the educational institution in which his textbooks were used. Other institutions that taught natural history in Barcelona those days have been studied: Botany and Chemistry schools in the Commerce Council, zoological and geological chairs in the Academy of Sciences, and different faculties at the University of Barcelona.

A great number of manuscript sources have been examined, basically those connected with the Pharmacy School and the Academy of Sciences: register books, degrees and examinations books, dominical lectures books, inventories, etc. With all this information, it has been possible to make it clear how Yàñez taught natural history in his chair of the Pharmacy School: theoretical and practical teaching, preparation of examinations, qualifications obtained by his pupils, etc. The characteristics of these pupils have also been examined: number, age and origin. The revision of inventories has allowed us to know the evolution of the Pharmacy’s School library and its room of natural history. It has also been examined the process of creation and evolution of the Museum of Natural History of the Academy of Sciences of Barcelona.

Finally, this work emphasizes Yàñez’ popularisation of natural history, not only in his teaching task, but also in his efforts to open scientific institutions to wider audiences, in his works on meteorology, or in his eulogies to deceased members of the Academy of Sciences.