History of Science 101

History 101.012

Spring 2014
Day & Time: 
TuTh 1230-2P
History is more than the study of the past, it is a philosophy whose central tenet is that every human activity in the past was socially constructed and can be historicized. Extending this philosophy to cover the actions of scientists and their knowledge-claims about the natural world is among the most radical assertions made by historians today. How have the claims of natural philosophers and scientists to “objective” and “factual” knowledge been socially constructed and contested in the past using political, economic, religious, and social authority? How have beliefs about what constitutes a proper subject for natural inquiry, about the boundaries of knowledge, and about what counts as evidence been related to their political contexts and changed over time? How have knowledge and power been bound together? These questions are fundamental to studies of the Ancient World, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the development of the modern university system we inhabit.
Topics relating to race, gender, religion, the nature of humankind, and the role of the state have all been deeply influenced by the claims of natural philosophers and scientists and are acceptable as general subjects for this writing seminar. Like science itself, this seminar will not be constrained by national boundaries. Subjects from a wide-range of time periods from the Ancient World to the twentieth century are also acceptable, as “science” will be broadly interpreted. Please feel free to contact the instructor early with any questions.