Biology

If you are interested in pursuing a degree or finding a job in the field of biology, everything you need is here. Find the best schools, career information, history of the discipline, influential people in the field, great books, and more.

Biology

What Is Biology?

Biology is the study of life and living organisms, as well as the various systems both comprising and supporting life at the micro and macro levels. Important fields in biology include zoology, evolution, biochemistry, molecular biology, ecology, and more. Biologists work in a wide range of professional, research, and educational contexts and in a wide range of sectors including healthcare, environmental science, epidemiology, and more. As a biology student, you would study subjects such as microbiology, human anatomy, botany, and more.

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The Best Colleges and Universities for Biology Degrees

We rank universities and colleges from around the world based on the scholarly work of their faculty and alumni. These colleges and universities are making the biggest impact on the biology discipline today.

Best Biology Major Research Universities

If you’re looking for a top research university to attend while earning your biology degree, consider:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Stanford University
  3. Massachusetts Institute Technology
  4. Yale University
  5. Columbia University

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Best Biology Major Liberal Arts Colleges

If you’re looking for a top liberal arts college to attend while earning your biology degree, consider:

  1. Swarthmore College
  2. Amherst College
  3. Pomona College
  4. Wesleyan University
  5. Williams College

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Best Bachelor's in Biology Online Colleges

  1. University of Florida
  2. University of Arizona
  3. Kean University
  4. West Texas A&M University
  5. University of Houston–Victoria

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To view the entire list of top biology schools, including schools offering online degrees and a breakdown of the best biology colleges and universities in your state, visit our look at the Best Colleges and Universities for Biology Degrees.

For a dynamic, real-time listing of the most influential biology schools in the world, use our Custom College Ranking.

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Biology Degrees

What Will I Study as a Biology Major?

As a biology major, you’ll study the various systems that constitute life including the anatomy, physiology, and microbiology within living organisms and the taxonomy, ecology, and biodiversity encompassing all living organisms.

What Can I Do With a Degree in Biology

With a degree in biology, you could qualify to enter a wide range of fields including zoology, pharmacology, nutrition, environmental sciences, medicine, and much more. In order to become a biologist, you would likely also need to earn an advanced degree.

If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Biology

If you’d like to learn more, check out our extensive list of resources for Biology students, graduates, and professionals...

How To Get a Degree in Biology

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The Best Online Biology Degrees

Biology is among the most popular disciplines at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. A growing number of reputable colleges and universities are satisfying demand for this degree by providing an array of high-quality online biology degree options. Using our InfluenceRanking engine, we’ve identified the best among them. Check out our growing set of rankings for online biology degree programs at every level of education.

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History of the Biology Discipline

The biology discipline is rooted in research and philosophy dating as far back as ancient Greece. The evolution of this discipline is complex, detailed, and filled with innovative and visionary thinkers. We highlight their work and findings in a brief but comprehensive history of the scientific discipline of biology. Below are a few highlights from our 4-part series–A Brief History of the Biology Discipline:

  1. William Harvey publishes his discovery of blood circulation in 1628.
  2. Francesco Redi shows that all living things derive from other living things, disproving the theory of “spontaneous generation,” in 1668.
  3. Matthias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann propose the “cell theory of life,” that all living things are composed of cells, in 1839.
  4. Emil Fischer proposes his lock-and-key model of protein function in 1894, guiding research for subsequent decades.
  5. Linus Pauling conducts pioneering physical and biochemical studies of hemoglobin during the 1930s.
  6. Francis Crick and James Watson discover the double helix structure, and thus identify the building block of all life–DNA–in 1953
  7. Richard Dawkins publishes The Selfish Gene in 1976, laying the foundation for the field of evolutionary biology
  8. Keith Campbell and Ian Wilmut announce the birth of Dolly the lamb at the University of Edinburgh in 1996, marking the first successful cloning of a mammal.
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Who Are the Current Top Biologists?

The following are the top biologists in the field today according to our machine-powered Influence Rankings, which are drawn from a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  • Emmanuelle Charpentier is the Founding and Acting Director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens and an Honorary Professor at Humboldt University.
  • Jennifer Doudna is a Li Ka Shing Chancellor Chair Professor for the Department of Chemistry and Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. She is best known for her work with CRISPR. She, along with her colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier, were the first to suggest that genes could be edited or reprogrammed, now considered one of the most impactful discoveries ever made in the field of biology.
  • Feng Zhang is a core member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the James and Patricia Poitras Professor in Neuroscience for the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and for Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Jack W. Szostak is a Canadian American biologist of Polish British descent, Nobel Prize laureate, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, and Alexander Rich Distinguished Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. Szostak has made significant contributions to the field of genetics. His achievement helped scientists to map the location of genes in mammals and to develop techniques for manipulating genes. His research findings in this area are also instrumental to the Human Genome Project. He was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol W. Greider, for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres.
  • Elizabeth Blackburn is a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco, studying the impacts of stress on telomerase and telomeres. She is the former president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the first Australian woman to win a Nobel prize. She is best known for her co-discovery of the telomerase, which is the enzyme that replenishes telomere. She and colleagues Carol W. Greider and Jack Szostak were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for this work. Her research on telomerase has explored ways that mental health can impact physical health, investigating the impacts of meditation and social bonds.
  • Richard Dawkins is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford and former University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science, but he is best known for his work in evolutionary biology. Dawkins is a pioneer in the role of genes in evolution.
  • Randy Schekman is an American cell biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, former editor-in-chief of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and former editor of Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology. In 2011, he was announced as the editor of eLife. Schekman shared the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with James Rothman and Thomas C. Südhof for their ground-breaking work on cell membrane vesicle trafficking.
  • John Gurdon is a British developmental biologist. He is best known for his pioneering research in nuclear transplantation and cloning. He was awarded the Lasker Award in 2009. In 2012, he and Shinya Yamanaka were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that mature cells can be converted to stem cells.
  • Sydney Brenner was a South African biologist. In 2002, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with H. Robert Horvitz and Sir John E. Sulston. Brenner made significant contributions to work on the genetic code, and other areas of molecular biology while working in the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He established the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism for the investigation of developmental biology, and founded the Molecular Sciences Institute in Berkeley, California, United States.
  • Edward O. Wilson is the world’s leading expert on ants, a specialty known as myrmecology, but that’s not all. He is also considered the father of biodiversity and the father of sociobiology. He is the Pellegrino University Research Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a lecturer at Duke University.

Learn about more influential biologists.

Interviews with Top Biologists

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Great Books About Biology

The following are the most influential books in the field of biology today according to our backstage Ranking Analytics tool, which calculates the influence of various sources in both academics and popular culture using a numerical scoring of citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  1. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine investigates the scientific evidence commonly put forward to support the idea that male and female behavioral differences are biologically determined.
  2. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin puts forth the thesis that random variation and selective retention (natural selection) is the mechanism that generates change in biological forms over time (evolution).
  3. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins advances the innovative scientific thesis that evolution is best understood as resulting from a competition, not between individual organisms, but rather between their germlines.
  4. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James Watson shares the events leading up to his epoch-making 1953 discovery, alongside Francis Crick , of the three-dimensional structure of the DNA molecule.
  5. Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexualit by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá asserts that the biological basis of the human psyche is our “environment of evolutionary adaptedness”.
  6. The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David G. Haskell observes a single patch of old-growth forest in Tennessee over the course of a year, analyzing the myriad changes in the forest’s flora and fauna as the seasons revolve.
  7. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee explains the genetic and physiological bases of cancer, as well as the experience of undergoing treatment for cancer.
  8. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee provides a history of our understanding of genetics and of the development of genetic engineering technology, married to a memoir focused on the tragic, cross-generation recurrence of mental illness in his own family.
  9. On Human Nature by Edward O. Wilson argues that the sociobiological approach to human behavior is destined to replace the current social sciences and even the humanities.
  10. The Population Bomb by Paul R. Ehrlich predicts that unchecked human population growth will lead to worldwide famine and ecological and social collapse during the 1970s and 1980s.

Learn about more great biology books.

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Biology Controversial Topics

The history of scientific innovation is highlighted by those who dared to challenge conventional wisdom. Moreover, public attitudes toward groundbreaking scientific achievements can be unpredictable and susceptible to disagreement. We’ll do our best to provide objective and fact-based information on the controversies pertinent to the biology discipline.

Go to The Best Biology Online Colleges