Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


This subject introduces the history of science from antiquity to the present. Students consider the impact of philosophy, art, magic, social structure, and folk knowledge on the development of what has come to be called "science" in the Western tradition, including those fields today designated as physics, biology, chemistry, medicine, astronomy and the mind sciences. Topics include concepts of matter, nature, motion, body, heavens, and mind as these have been shaped over the course of history. Students read original works by Aristotle, Vesalius, Newton, Lavoisier, Darwin, Freud, and Einstein, among others.


As a HASS-D (Humanities Arts and Social Sciences – Distribution) and CI-H (Communication Intensive – Humanities) subject, there will be a strong emphasis upon reading and writing. There will be three papers assigned for a total of 20-24 pages of writing over the course of the semester. Students will also be required to revise and resubmit one of their papers, to give them an opportunity to work on specific writing skills in anticipation of the final paper.

Peer Response Groups

Our Writing Advisor will organize group meetings over the course of the semester to give students the chance to work with each other to improve their papers. Students will meet with him in small groups (3-5 students each), for two hours, to discuss and provide feedback on paper drafts. All students must do at least one peer response group over the course of the semester.


Paper 1 10%
Paper 2 15%
Paper 2 rewrite 15%
Proposal for final paper 5%
Final paper 35%
Participation in class discussions 20%

Reading Assignments

Two books are required:

Buy at Amazon Lindberg, David C. The Beginnings of Western Science. 2nd ed. University of Chicago Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780226482057. [Preview with Google Books]

Buy at Amazon Dear, Peter. The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World. University of Chicago Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780226139487. [Preview with Google Books]

Required readings should be completed before each lecture. We have also provided suggested readings for each lecture, which might prove helpful when working on the papers.

Lecture Schedule

1   Introduction  
1. Matter
2 Kaiser The stuff of matter in the ancient world  
3 Kaiser Alchemy and experiment in the Renaissance  
4 Kaiser Textbooks and chemical order, from Lavoisier to Mendeleev  
5 Kaiser Quantum alchemy?  
2. Nature
6  Jones The nature of nature in ancient and medieval worlds Paper 1 due
7 Jones Exploring, collecting, classifying  
8 Jones Evolution and the origin of species  
9 Jones Ecology and environment  
3. Motion
10 Kaiser From "natural motions" to "laws of motion"  
11 Kaiser Beer brewing, steam engines, and the fate of the cosmos Paper 2 due
12 Kaiser Space, time, and spacetime  
4. Body
13 Jones Blood, guts and images  
14 Jones Cell theory  
15 Jones Physiology and experiment  
16 Jones Models of inheritance and genetics  
5. Heavens
17 Kaiser To save the phenomena  
18 Kaiser Copernicus: Round and round we go Paper 2 re-write due
19 Kaiser The Newtonian cosmos  
20 Kaiser Einstein, gravity, and politics  
6. Mind
21 Jones Mind-body Final paper proposal due
22  Jones Madness  
23 Jones Brains in the lab: Experimental psychology  
24 Jones Man-machine  
25  Kaiser Conclusion Final paper due