The Department of Biology was formed in August 2022 from the Department of Plant Sciences and Department of Zoology.
The Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology at Oxford cultivated long and distinguished histories. They were centres for research in plant physiology and development, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, ecology and behaviour for more than a century, including hosting research by multiple Nobel Prize winners and dozens of Fellows of the Royal Society. More recently, they provided numerous examples of successful and impactful research, with major commercialisation from spin-out companies, and policy and advice provided at the highest levels of government. The two departments jointly taught a Biological Sciences degree for more than 30 years. This recently underwent a major revision to a four year MBiol course in Biology with a research intensive final year, with almost 100 students carrying out year-long research projects embedded in research groups.
The Department of Plant Sciences grew out of the University of Oxford's Botanic Gardens, the oldest Botanic Garden in Great Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. Established in 1621 and hosting the first Regius Professor of Botany, Robert Morrison, in 1669, Plant Sciences had one of the longest scientific legacies in the university. The Department stemmed directly from the previous Departments of Agriculture, Botany, and Forestry, and constantly adapted to changing research landscapes over the past centuries. Plant Sciences was also home to the renowned Oxford University Herbaria which provide a focus for research in plant systematics.
The Department of Zoology was officially founded in 1860, and was initially based in the Museum of Natural History before moving into the Tinbergen Building in 1971. Initially known as the Department of Anatomy and Physiology, it was called the Department of Human and Comparative Anatomy, the Department of Morphology, and the Department of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy. The John Krebs Field Station at Wytham houses a number of our key research groups, and Wytham Woods – an ancient semi-natural woodland that have been owned and maintained by the University of Oxford since 1942 – boasts many of our long-term ecological research projects.