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Holiday & Introductory Course August 3, 2011

Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
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I am going to be doing some traveling for the next couple of weeks, and so there are likely to be no new posts in that time.  In other news, starting in October, I will be teaching a year-long introduction to the history of science course here at Imperial.  I’ve included a tentative lecture schedule and reading list below the fold.  This isn’t set in stone yet, so comments and suggestions are welcome.


LECTURE 1. Course Overview & How to Argue Historically

LECTURE 2. Scholastic Philosophy and the Medieval Cosmos

Tutorial 1

  • C. S. Lewis, selections from The Discarded Image (1964)

*I assigned this in its entirety for my 2008 history of science course at the University of Maryland — huge disaster.  But I really like how Lewis portrays Medieval thought as essentially bookish, and how this bookish culture revolves around an unspoken “model,” or cosmology.  Pruning it down, I think it will also mesh well with the Grafton in Tutorial 2, but I’ll have to at least do some sort of intro to what’s going on, probably as early as lecture 1, if I want it to work.

LECTURE 3. Renaissance Challenges

LECTURE 4. Philosophical Reformers

Tutorial 2

  • Anthony Grafton, “All Coherence Lost,” in New Worlds, Ancient Facts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery
  • Peter Dear, “Mathematics Challenges Philosophy: Galileo, Kepler, and the Surveyors” and “Mechanism: Descartes Builds a Universe,” in Revolutionizing the Sciences

LECTURE 5. Experimental Philosophy/The Place of Isaac Newton

LECTURE 6. Alchemy, Matter Theory, and Chemistry

Tutorial 3

  • Noel Coley, “Science in Seventeenth-Century England,” in The Rise of Scientific Europe
  • Jan Golinski, “Chemistry” from Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 4

LECTURE 7. The Enlightenment

LECTURE 8. The Spirit of Improvement and Specialised Science

Tutorial 4

  • Jan Golinski, excerpts from “’Dr. Beddoes’ Breath’: Nitrous Oxide and the Culmination of Enlightenment Medical Chemistry” in Science as Public Culture, pp. 157-175
  • John Gascoigne, “The Principles and Practice of Improvement,” in Joseph Banks and the English Enlightenment (1994)

LECTURE 9. Natural History, Natural Philosophy, and Mathematics in the 1700s

LECTURE 10. Making Sense of the Earth: Life and Geology

Tutorial 5

  • Martin Rudwick, “The Theory of the Earth,” from Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution (2005)
  • James Secord, “Introduction” to Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology (Penguin Edition)


LECTURE 11. Science, Religion, and Ideology in the Nineteenth Century

LECTURE 12. Darwin and His Place in the Sciences

Tutorial 6

  • John Hedley Brooke, “The Fortunes and Functions of Natural Theology” in Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives
  • Peter Bowler, The Fontana History of the Environmental Sciences, pp. 282-305, 323-361 (on Darwin and the reception of natural selection)

LECTURE 13. Laboratories and Universities

LECTURE 14. The New Physics and Engineering

Tutorial 7

  • J. B. Morrell, “The Chemist Breeders: The Research Schools of Liebig and Thomas Thomson” Ambix (1972)
  • Andrew Warwick, “A Mathematical World on Paper: Written Examinations in Early 19th-Century Cambridge” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics (1998)

*I was unaware of the Morrell until Andy Mendelsohn here at Imperial told me about it when I was looking for something on laboratories.  It’s a bit long, but it pairs really nicely with Andy W.’s piece.

LECTURE 15. The Social Sciences

LECTURE 16. Origins and Facets of Twentieth-Century Biology

Tutorial 8

  • Adam Kuper, “Anthropology,” from Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 7
  • Neil Morgan, “From Physiology to Biochemistry” and…
  • Robert Olby, “The Emergence of Genetics,” both in Companion to the History of the Modern Sciences

*Note: These readings are all fairly dry.  The objective is to try an exercise in “untangling” history, wherein disparate traditions in anthropology, biochemistry, and genetics all emerge out of the same 19th-century soup of physiology, evolutionary theory, and chemistry, before re-synthesizing to a degree in molecular biology.  I’m still thinking of switching in Kohler on Drosophila, or something similar.

LECTURE 17 Industry and the Expansion of Science

LECTURE 18. Twentieth-Century Politics of Science and Technology

Tutorial 9

  • Listen to: Edward Appleton, “Industrial Science” from his 1956 BBC Reith Lectures http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00hg1rq
  • Daniel Greenberg, “The Scientific Community” from his The Politics of American Science (1969)

LECTURE 19. Calculation, Modelling, Simulation, and Artificial Intelligence

LECTURE 20. Review

Tutorial 10

  • Amy Dahan-Delmedico, “History and Epistemology of Models: Meteorology (1946-1963) as a Case Study” Archive for History of Exact Sciences (2001)


1. Charles Day - August 4, 2011

Two things struck me about what looks like a mentally challenging and rewarding course:

1. The authors of the assigned books all seem British or American

2. The course seems to omit scholarly practices — that is, the methods historians of science use to gather and evaluate raw historical material

2. Will Thomas - August 5, 2011

Hi Charles; Amy Dahan is French, but she writes often on American topics, but yes, lots of Brits and Americans. The covereage, though, should be reasonably international, though Britain will end up being a bit overrepresented (but then that’s where I’m teaching the course!) I should note that the course is for undergraduates, all of whom will be scientists or engineers. So, no methodology readings. In fact, my present concern is that what is presented here will be a bit much/too hard for them.

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