Science, Technology, and Society

HISTORY 182A

Spring 2017
Section: 
001
Instructor: 
Location: 
470 Stephens
Day & Time: 
TuTh 12:30-2
Class Number: 
33310
Units: 
4

Where do modern science and technology come from? How did they become the most authoritative kind of knowledge in modern societies? How do technology, culture, and society interact? What drives technological change? The course examines these and other related questions using historical case studies from 1600 to the present. We shall discuss the emergence of science as a defining dimension of modernity, and its relations to other cultural traditions such as magic, religion, and art. We shall then focus our attention on the evolution of artifacts and technological systems such as industrial machinery, weapons, computers, and contraceptives. The aim of the course is for you to learn about how technology shapes the way we live and, especially, how technological change is invariably shaped by historical and social circumstances. At the end of the course you will be able to think historically about science and technology, and thus engage effectively with questions of technological change -- or lack thereof.

The course draws approaches and materials from both history and science. Throughout, however, we emphasize historical development. The ideas and artifacts of technology are not timeless, and they did not drop from the sky. A main course goal is to practice thinking historically; assignments and examinations call on those skills. The course is aimed at students of all majors; no scientific knowledge is presupposed.