Scientists as Servants of the Church and State, 1600-2000

History 100.008

Spring 2010
213 Wheeler
Day & Time: 
MWF 2-3

Scientists have occupied a privileged place in Western societies since the Scientific Revolution, but can they be trusted? For most of the past four centuries, the answer has been a resounding no. In this course, we explore the evolution of the idea that scientists are free from the duty to uphold the authority of church and state and the frequent attempts to suppress this freedom. Should scientists pursue research only on state-approved topics? Should data be concealed if they threaten religious doctrine or corporate profits? What balance should be struck between efficient, coordinated research and the independence to follow one's own theories? Should scientists engage in politics? We begin by studying the first blueprints for scientific utopias, the imprisonment of Galileo for heresy, and the ";citizen's science"; of the French Revolution, continue with Darwinism, Einstein, biology under Stalin, Nazi cancer research, and the influence of Cold War anxieties on American high school science curricula, and conclude by investigating the growth of corporate and internationally regulated science at the end of the millennium.


Students interested in teaching elementary or secondary school science and math and who plan to take this course as part of the Cal Teach program will be attending a supplemental section (Section times will be assigned in lecture in the first week of the semester). This section will focus on the techniques, skills, and perspectives necessary to apply the history of science in the juvenile and adolescent science classroom. For more information about Cal Teach, go to