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Curricular information is subject to change
On completion of this module students should be able to:
- Assess the role of scientific practice in the development of society from
ancient times to the present.
- Examine the validity of traditional narratives of the history of science and the
Scientific Revolution, and identify important milestones and events.
- Demonstrate understanding of the historiography of the history of science.
Lecture 1. Views of the Cosmos I: Babylon to the Ptolemaic Universe, c.3000 BCE-150 CE:
Introduction: What is the History of Science? The Cradles of Civilisation and the emergence
of mathematics; Babylonian star catalogues and the origins of western astronomy; ancient
concepts of the universe; Pythagorean and Aristotelian models in ancient Greece; Ptolemy’s
geocentric model and the sphere.
Lecture 2. The Life Sciences: Ancient Greece to the Roman Empire, c.350 BCE-c.500 CE:
Early medicine and natural science in Asia and Europe; Animal husbandry and care;
Aristotle’s biology; teleology and zoology in the Hellenistic period; natural history in the
Roman empire, from Lucretius to Galen; Isidore of Seville.
Lecture 3. Science in the Islamic Golden Age, 786-1258 CE: Science in the Umayyad and
Abbasid caliphates; medieval Islamic contributions to mathematics; transmission of
knowledge to Europe; astronomy and cosmology in medieval Islam; Zakariya al-Qazwini
and the Marvels of Creatures and Strange Things Existing; Islamic cartography.
Lecture 4. Scientific Endeavour in Europe in the Middle Ages, c.900-1453 CE: Science in
Europe in the middle ages; Greek and Arabic influences; science and the medieval
university; scientific and technological innovation in the 12th century; rediscovering the
classics; medical and veterinary texts.
Lecture 5. Science in a New World, 1492-1700 CE: The Portuguese discoveries and the dawn
of astronomical navigation; understanding a new continent; natural history in 16th-century
Spanish America; empirical practices in the service of the Spanish Empire; natural science
and medicine in Portuguese and Dutch Brazil; the Columbian Exchange; did Portugal and
Spain contribute to the Scientific Revolution?
Lecture 6. Scientific Revolution I: The Renaissance to Descartes, c1450-1650: the printing
press and its impact on scientific work; sensory experience and the rejection of the Classics;
medicine and veterinary practices in early modern Europe; Paracelsus and chemical
medicine; the anatomy and physiology of Vesalius and Harvey; new methodologies: Francis
Bacon and the Scientific Method; the work and legacy of René Descartes
Lecture 7. Views of the Cosmos II: Scientific Revolution II from Copernicus to Newton,
1543-1687: 16th-century concepts of the universe; Copernicus and the heliocentric universe;
the Copernican Revolution: Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei; Robert
Boyle and experimentalism; Isaac Newton and the Principia Mathematica.
Lecture 8. Enlightenment and Empire, c.1700-1815: The influence of scientific societies and
academies in England and France; the evolution of natural philosophy; science as a tool of
social reform; dissemination and the popularisation of science; literacy and popular science
in print; science and imperial stimulus; the Chemical Revolution; scientific innovation and
the Industrial Revolution.
Lecture 9. Uncovering the Ancient Earth: the Origins of Geology, the Darwinian
Revolution, and Biology in the Modern Age c.1750-1953: debates on the age of the Earth;
natural history in the 19th century; Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and 19th-century evolutionary
theory; Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection; On the
Origin of Species; the aftermath of Darwin; science and war in the 20th century; Mendel and
the emergence of genetics; DNA and the double helix.
Lecture 10. The Atom, the Cat and the Bomb – Atomic theory and Quantum Mechanics,
c.1827-1960: Brownian motion: antecedents; John Dalton and the dawn of modern atomic
theory; the discovery of the electron; Marie Curie and radioactivity; Ernest Rutherford and
the Geiger–Marsden experiment; Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and the Copenhagen
interpretation; Schrödinger’s cat; nuclear fission and the Manhattan project; Richard
Feynman and the emergence of QED.
Lecture 11. Views of the Cosmos III: From the Big Bang to the Holographic Universe,
c.1929 to the present: Edwin Hubble and the expanding universe; Fred Hoyle’s helium
problem; Steady State vs. the Big Bang; the afterglow of creation; Paul Dirac and antimatter;
quantum foam, the multiverse and the many-worlds interpretation; the holographic
Lecture 12. Ecology, Environment and Climate Change, 1800 to the present: What is
Environmental History? 18th-century precursors to environmentalism; Thomas Robert
Malthus and the social theory of population dynamics; Alexander von Humboldt: botanical
geography, Naturgemälde and climate change; Empire, industry and nature in the 19th
century; Environmentalism in the 19th and 20th centuries; Climatology, 19th century to the
|Student Effort Type||Hours|
|Seminar (or Webinar)||
|Specified Learning Activities||
|Autonomous Student Learning||
Not applicable to this module.
|Remediation Type||Remediation Timing|
|Repeat||Within Two Trimesters|
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
Feedback on the mid-term Essay Plan Assignment is given in writing on the returned hard-copy. Feedback on the end-of-semester Essay Assignment is given by appointment in one-to-one meetings.