History of Modern Science  HMS

Instructor:  Dr. Matthew ADAMSON

Required Texts: A class reader available in room 222, and various readings, to be distributed throughout the semester

Course Overview

What is science? How do we acquire scientific knowledge? Are scientific organizations and conduct unique? This course will trace the history of science from the Scientific Revolution of the 16th century to the state of science at the end of the twentieth century. It will examine both primary texts written by scientists whose ideas were crucial to the development of modern science, and secondary texts written by important historians, sociologists, and philosophers of science. The course term paper will ask students to assess the usefulness of biography in the history of science by studying a scientific figure of their choice.

Week by Week

Week 1: in class: Introduction
Week 2:
in class: The Scientific Method and the scientific community I
in class: The Scientific Method and the scientific community II
Week 3: Essay 1 Copernicus/Galileo essay due
in class: The Scientific Revolution
in class: Scientific Academies
Week 4: in class: Isaac Newton and Newtonianism
Fictional diary + biography due
in class: Enlightenment Science: Who? Where? How? Why?
Week 5: in class: Voyages of Scientific Discovery
Essay 2 Lavoisier essay due
in class: The Chemical Revolution
Week 6: in class: from Electricity and Magnetism to Electromagnetism + Thermodynamics, or, Of Steam and Scientists
Essay 3 The Reichenstalt essay due
in class: The Germans: universities, national institutes
Week 7: mid-term week
in class: exam review
in class: mid-term
Week 8: In class: Geology, or, the earth moves under our feet
Week 9: in class: Darwin
Term paper proposal due
in class: Radioactivity; Quanta
Week 10: in class: Einstein and scientific revolution
Essay 4 Something from quantum physics/mechanics essay due
in class: Quantum mechanics and the philosopher-scientists
Week 11: in class: Science, the military, and industry
in class: Machine-science: particle physics and astronomy
Week 12: Term paper outline due
in class: The Drosophilists-of milk-jugs, mushed bananas and genetics
in class: Guest lecture
Week 13: in class: Science, WWII, and the Manhattan Project
Essay 5 Weinberg essay due
in class: Big Science
Week 14: Optional term paper draft
in class: The postwar American physicist and the security state
in class: Ecology and contemporary life sciences
Week 15: Student presentations
Term paper due
exam review