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STS.310 History of Science

Fall 2005

A pharmaceutical laboratory at Howard University, Washington, D.C., circa 1900.Science as knowledge production: a pharmaceutical laboratory at Howard University, Washington, D.C., circa 1900. (Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-35750.)

Course Highlights

This course features a complete reading list.

Course Description

This seminar explores recent historiographical approaches within the history of science. Students will read a wide variety of studies covering topics from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, from the physical sciences to natural history and medicine. Emphasis will be placed on: deciphering different theoretical approaches; the pros and cons of different research questions, subjects, and sources of evidence; and what makes for good and interesting history of science.


*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.





Syllabus

Description

This seminar explores recent historiographical approaches within the history of science. Students will read a wide variety of studies covering topics from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, from the physical sciences to natural history and medicine. Emphasis will be placed on: deciphering different theoretical approaches; the pros and cons of different research questions, subjects, and sources of evidence; what makes for good and interesting history of science.



Requirements

All readings must be completed before each session. Students will take turns leading discussions in the seminar. This will involve presenting an overview of the major themes of the readings and suggesting some possible lines of critique.

There will be two writing assignments:

Historians must be able to read large amounts of material quickly, while still grasping the essential content. This seminar will provide ample opportunity for refining your skills. Reading loads will be heavy for each session. Practice active reading (also know as aggressive skimming). Be sure to absorb:  the author's main arguments; how these arguments relate to broader questions in the field; the examples used to illustrate these arguments; the types of sources used to provide evidence; and the credibility of the evidence and arguments. Also pay attention to historiography:  how do authors both characterize existing work and define the contribution made by their own work?



Textbooks

There is no textbook for this class.



Calendar


SES #TOPICSKEY DATES
1Introduction
2Institutions and Epistemology in Early Modern Europe
3Natural History
4Victorian ScienceBook Review due
5Science and Empire
6Biomedical Research
7Modern Physics
8Presentations of Student PapersHistoriographical Essay due




Readings

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SES #TOPICSREADINGS
1Introduction
2Institutions and Epistemology in Early Modern EuropeAmazon logo Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 3rd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996 [1962]. ISBN: 9780226458083.

Amazon logo Bowler, Peter J., and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780226068619.

Amazon logo Shapin, Steven, and Simon Shaffer. Leviathan and the Air Pump: Boyle, Hobbes, and the Experimental Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986. ISBN: 9780691083933.

Amazon logo Biagioli, Mario. Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1993. ISBN: 9780226045597.

Amazon logo Daston, Lorraine, and Katherine Park. Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750. New York, NY: Zone Books, 1998. ISBN: 9780942299908.
3Natural HistoryAmazon logo Richards, Robert J. The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780226712109.

Amazon logo Browne, Janet. Charles Darwin: Voyaging. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780691026060. Or,

Amazon logo ———. Charles Darwin: The Power of Place. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780679429326.

Amazon logo Stepan, Nancy Leys. Picturing Tropical Nature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780801438813.
4Victorian ScienceAmazon logo Secord, James. Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780226744100.

Amazon logo Smith, Crosbie. The Science of Energy: A Cultural History of Energy Physics in Victorian Britain. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780226764214.

Amazon logo Winter, Alison. Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780226902197.
5Science and EmpireAmazon logo Drayton, Richard. Nature's Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the 'Improvement' of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780300059762.

Amazon logo Burnett, D. Graham. Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780226081205.

Amazon logo Sadowsky, Jonathan. Imperial Bedlam: Institutions of Madness in Colonial Southwest Nigeria. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780520216174.
6Biomedical ResearchAmazon logo Kohler, Robert. Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780226450636.

Amazon logo Pressman, Jack D. Last Resort: Psychosurgery and the Limits of Medicine. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780521353717.

Amazon logo Epstein, Steven. Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780520214453.
7Modern PhysicsAmazon logo Galison, Peter. Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps: Empires of Time. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. ISBN: 9780393020014.

Amazon logo Schweber, S. S. In the Shadow of the Bomb: Bethe, Oppenheimer, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780691049892.

Amazon logo Kaiser, David. Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780226422671.
8Presentations of Student Papers




Assignments

Assignment Descriptions

There are two writing assignments due in this course:

The first is a book review of one of the books on the syllabus, with a minimum length of 1500 words. This is due in the middle of the term.

The second is a historiographical essay of 7500 words, and this is due in the final week of class. This essay involves reading a series of contrasting works on the same topic, evaluating the contributions and limitations of each, and situating them within wider historiographic themes.



Examples of Student Work

Paper Two

Student work is courtesy of the students and used with permission.


AuthorSTITLES
Michael RossiThe Whole Whale: Nature, Humans, Technology, History (PDF)
AnonymousIn Conversation with Bruno Latour: Historiography of "Science in Action" (PDF)



Additional Topics

"Weapons of Mass Construction: A Historiography of the Machine-Organism Analogy in Cybernetics"

"Catching Us Off Guard: The Transformative Assemblage of the Synthetic Chemical Industry"




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