Instructor:  Dr. Matthew ADAMSON

email: mhadamson at


I am usually on campus in Room 228; please make an appointment if you want to be certain to find me

Course Description

What is science? What role do philosophical, social, and political factors play in the acquisition of scientific knowledge? Are scientific organizations and conduct unique? How have scientific disciplines formed and changed over the centuries? What is the relationship between science and the state? What is the nature of scientific knowledge, and how should society put it to use? What use is biography in better understanding history? This course will trace the history of science from the Scientific Revolution to the end of the twentieth century. It will examine both primary texts written by scientists and secondary texts written by historians, all while bearing these sorts of questions above in mind. An extended assignment will ask students to consider the role of the scientist in society, by examining a scientist of their choice.

Required texts

Assignments & grading

Grading system — 100 points total


Term Project:

Each student will select a scientist of the period we are covering (Scientific Revolution to the Present) to study. They must be familiar with the basic biography of the given scientist. In particular, via a reading of the scientist.s own writings as well as secondary texts, the student will endeavor to understand the given scientist.s opinions concerning the proper role of the scientist in society. This translates to any number of important questions depending on the geographical and temporal place of the scientist in history. Etc. etc — this is hardly a full list of such questions, and the number of such questions will multiply during the semester. After writing a "position paper" on the views of the scientists, students will engage in a classroom debate on the proper role(s) of the scientist in society, historically and today.

Standard McDaniel College scale:

100+ A+
93-100 A
90-92 A-
88-89 B+
83-87 B
80-82 B-
78-79 C+
73-78 C
70-72 C-
68-69 D+
63-67 D
60-62 D-
< 60 F

Class participation

Informed, critical exchange of ideas forms the core of the College learning experience. It should occur in every classroom. This is why in-class participation plays an important role in the final determination of your course grade. You are expected to share ideas during discussions and you are wholeheartedly encouraged to ask questions when you do not understand something. Participation implies attendance; absences will be noted and will adversely affect your final participation grade.

Creation of a proper classroom environment requires above all else respect for fellow students. We all ask that you don.t be late; that you don.t surf the internet on your laptop or otherwise distract everyone else during class; that you turn off your cell phone and that you do not check for messages during class. Likewise, you can expect me to end class on time, to engage you in discussion and debate, and to be respectful of all points of view.

Course policies

You may be absent three times, no questions need not explain the cause of your absence. Following three unexcused absences, however, you will begin to lose points from your class participation grade, a grade per unexcused absence over the limit. Please note that we meet for two consecutive sessions per week. If you miss them both, that is, for you are absent for an entire day of class, that counts as two absences. Do not be late.a tardy arrival will be counted as half an absence.

Semester schedule/topics covered

Week 1: Tue. February 3
in class: Introduction.the Nature of Science
Week 2: Tue. February 10
in class: The Scientific Revolution
Week 3: Tue. February 17
in class: The Royal Society & Isaac Newton
Week 4: Tue. February 24
in class: The Enlightenment and the Chemical Revolution
Week 5: Tue. March 3
in class: The 19th Century Natural Sciences in National Contexts
Week 6: Tue. March 10
in class: Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle
Week 7: Tue. March 18
in class: Student mid-term discussions/Darwin and Evolution
Week 8: Tue. March 24
in class: Revolutions in 19th and 20th Century physics
March 30 . April 6 Easter Holiday.No Classes
Week 9: Tue. April 7
in class: Copenhagen
Week 10: Tue. April 14
in class: World War II and Big Science
Week 11: Tue. April 21
in class: The Cold War Security State and Science
Week 12: Tue. April 28
in class: Post-World War II Science, changing life & mind
Week 13: Tue. May 5
in class: Post-World War II Science, exploring space, spying earth
Week 14: Tue. May 12
in class: the Great Debate.the role of the science and the scientist in society
Week of May 19 Final Exam Week