HST 560: Scientific Revolutions

Fall 2020 (October-December, 2020): Online

Scientific revolutions represent major shifts that transform natural knowledge with socio-cultural ramifications. Consider how Copernican heliocentric theory up to the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia dramatically reframed knowledge about the natural world and the institutions that govern its study and applications, leading to our modern scientific culture. Further revolutionary moments arose around figures such as Charles Darwin (theory of evolution by natural selection) and Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and others (whose theories brought forth quantum physics).

Behind revolutionary science, there is are persistent processes through which sciences and societies historically influence each other in ways that spark controversy, strain cultural relationships, and bring about changes for both. In essence, our work in this course will not only focus on science in society, but how society wrestles with science, leading to various crises and/or consensuses. In this course, with a focus on the approaches to the history of science by Naomi Oreskes, Thomas Kuhn, Lawrence Principe, John M. Barry, and Angela Saini, we will critically focus on those pressure points and how they have been communicated between science and society around climate change, gender, alchemy, pandemics, and race, both in historical context and in relevance to the present day.

Books assigned:

  • Naomi Oreskes, Why Trust Science? (Princeton University Press, 2019). ISBN: 978-0691179001.
  • Lawrence Principe, The Secrets of Alchemy (University of Chicago Press, 2015). ISBN 978-0226103792.
  • John M. Barry, The Great Influenza (Penguin Books, 2005). ISBN 978-0143036494.
  • Angela Saini, Superior: The Return of Race Science (Beacon Press, 2020). ISBN: 978-0807028421.