Biology 125D                                                                                Fall 2005

Perspectives in Biology:                                                      Robert Fairman

Genetic Roil and Royal Families

MWF 9:30AM-10:30AM                                                               Hilles 109

Office hours:  Tuesday 1:30-2:30; Wednesday 10:30-11:30; and by appointment (Sharpless 311)


This course will focus on the genetic and biochemical basis of disease in royal families and its impact on politics and culture.  We will start off by learning the basic biological principles necessary to appreciate the molecular and cellular aspects of two genetic diseases:  (1) hemophilia A (the "bleeding" disease) ; and (2) variegate porphyria (the "Royal malady").  After developing a basic understanding of the important biological principles, we will focus on these two diseases from the point of view of medicine (past and present diagnosis and treatment), and political and cultural impact during the times of Tsarevich Alexis and King George III.  The goal of this course is to understand the importance of biology and medicine not only to the scientific community but to society as a whole.

We will have two quizzes, which will cover the molecular and cellular information covered in the first three weeks.  In addition, we will use a graphics program to study hemoglobin, and a short assignment will be based on the use of this program.  Two debates will be held in the second half of the course focusing on historical and political impact of the royal maladies.  A final paper will allow you to develop an independent project on a human genetic disease of your choosing.  I will be providing a document which will describe how to find resources, including texts, monographs, journal articles, and web sites, which will be important references in your paper.  This paper will include a brief discussion of the genetics, biochemistry, medical treatment (pre-20th century and modern), and genetic counseling that is given to help parents know their options for dealing with genetic diseases in their children.


15%                 quiz 1                                                              9/9

15%                 quiz 2                                                              9/23

10%                 graphics exercise                                             9/9

20%                 debate and participation                                   9/30 & 10/21

40%                 final paper

outline and refs    10%                                    10/7

draft                     20%                                    10/21

final                      10%                                    10/28



Cell Biology and Genetics, Starr & Taggart, 10th Edition, 2004, Thompson.

Nicholas and Alexandra, Massie,1967,Ballantine Books.

Royal Babylon, Shaw, 1999, Broadway Books.

Mad Princes of Renaissance Germany, Midelfort, 1994, University Press of Virginia.

Rasputin and the Empress, 1933, MGM.

The Madness of King George, 1994, MGM.

Batley, F. (1975). King George III's insanity porphyria:  A royal malady. Ohio State Med. J. 71:578.

Dean, G. (1969). Letters. Sci. Am. 221(6):8.

Anderson, K.E., Sassa, S., Bishop, D.F., & Desnick, R.J. Chapter 124. Disorders of heme biosynthesis; X-linked sideroblastic anemia, and the porphyrias.  In "The Metabolic and Molecular Bases of Inherited Disease", VIII Edition, 2001.

Kazazian, H.H., Tuddenham, E.G.D., & Antonarakis, S.E. Chapter 172: Hemophilia A: deficiency of coagulation factor VIII.  In "The Metabolic and Molecular Bases of Inherited Disease", VIII Edition, 2001.

Macalpine, I. (1969). Letters. Sci. Am. 221(6):8.

Macalpine, I. & Hunter, R. (1969). Porphyria and King George 3rd. Sci. Am. 221(1):38.

Warren, M.J., Jay, M., Hunt, D.M., Elder, G.H., & Rhl, J.C.G. (1996). The maddening business of King George III and porphyria. Trends Biochem. Sci. 21:229.

Willbanks, O.L. & Willbanks, S. E. (1983). Femoral neuropathy due to retroperitoneal bleeding. Am. J. Surgery 145:193

Biology 125D                           Fall 2005                               Robert Fairman


Week 1:


Aug. 29:

Course introduction and basic principles of biology

Ch. 1

Aug. 31:

Cell structure and differentiation

Ch. 4

Sep. 2:

Cell propagation: mitosis and meiosis

Ch. 9,10


Week 2:


Sep. 5:

Molecular building blocks for the cell


Ch. 2,3


Sep. 7:

Protein structure and stability


Ch. 3

Sep. 9:

Rasmol exercise, Room H205 (computer cluster),

turn in on 9/12

Quiz #1 Due




Week 3:


Sep. 12:

Central Dogma:  DNA structure and expression

Ch. 13,14

Sep. 14:

Molecular Genetics

Ch. 11

Sep. 16:

Human genetics

Ch. 12


Week 4:


Sep. 19:

A molecular understanding of hemophilia


Sep. 21:

Genealogy and medical history of hemophilia in royal families


Sep. 23:

Historical context for hemophilia and Tsarevich Alexis

Quiz #2 Due



Week 5:


Sep. 26:

A&E special


Sep. 28:



Sep. 30:






Week 6:


Oct. 3:

A molecular understanding of porphyria


Oct. 5:

Genealogy and medical history of porphyria in royal families


Oct. 7:

Historical context for porphyria and King George III

Outline and references for final paper due





Week 7:



Oct. 17:

The porphyria hypothesis:  discussing the debate


Oct. 19:



Oct. 21:


Draft of final paper due





Oct. 28

Final paper due