Fall 2012 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Gossin, Pamela
Discipline and Number
HUHI 7387 Section 501
T Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
Science and Technology in Western Culture

Description of Course:


Where did science come from? How did human beings begin to make sense of the natural world and their part in it? How are the same processes of imagination, invention and discovery still at work today in shaping human cultures' understanding of natural phenomena? What roles did those from various knowledge bases and "disciplinary" backgrounds play in the evolution of science?

In this interdisciplinary history course we will ask those questions (and more!) as we read and discuss texts of natural philosophy, the history of science, scientific biography and literature. We will trace the origins and development of western science and its construction of natural knowledge from the ancient world through the near present. From philosophical, scientific and literary points of view, we will explore whether there was any such thing as the "Scientific Revolution," and if so, how the "revolutionary" changes in world views influenced human life on social, political and personal levels. How do scientific ideas and technological developments continue to transform our minds, bodies and lives today?

The central inquiries of this class will focus on these questions: What is "nature"? What is "natural"? What is "supernatural"? How have our definitions of such concepts changed over time and altered our ideas about what it means to be "human"? Do we "discover" order in the universe or do we "invent" it? How have the relationships between (and relative values and roles of) imagination, faith and reason shifted from the ancient world through the early modern period into the present? With what consequences?

Class meetings will include lecture, discussion, films and student presentations as we examine developments in magic and alchemy, astronomy and cosmology, natural history, the history of medicine, life sciences, and experimental science. NO technical or specific scientific background is required.

Required Texts:

REQUIRED TEXTS -- literature and science:
Marlowe, Christopher, Dr Faustus
Baigrie, Brian, Scientific Revolutions: Primary Texts in the History of Science (selections; SR for short)
Appleman, Philip, ed., Darwin (selections)
Feynman, Richard, Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman
Watson, James, The Double Helix

REQUIRED TEXTS -- history and philosophy of science:
Crowe, Michael, Theories of the Worlds: From Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution (selections)
Lindberg, David C. The Beginnings of Western Science (2nd ed or newer)
Gleick, James, Isaac Newton
Holmes, Richard, The Age of Wonder (selections)

Hankins, Thomas, Science and the Enlightenment, selections (may also be purchased at Half-Price Books)
Women in Science, selected articles (on electronic reserve)
Galileo's Battle for the Heavens, video/dvd


Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

- Attendance and participation (A&P)* = 1/3rd
- Informal in-class presentations (over scientific auto/biography, critical historical article etc). = 1/3rd
- One 10-12 pp written analytical and interpretative essay = 1/3rd
Extra Credit: one 15-20 min formal in-class grade-level appropriate lesson or conference-style presentation

* Additional extra credit may be used to enhance A&P grade. Listen for more info on these in class.

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