History And Philosophy Of Science | Scientific Revolutions: Plato to NATO
X102 | 3005 | Associate Instructors


Modern science, perhaps more than anything else, makes our
contemporary society unique in history.  Observers of science often
point out that the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the food we
eat, and even the substance of our entertainment are all results of
science.  Most dramatically, perhaps, our attitudes and practices
surrounding medicine and health are inconceivable without modern
science.  It is no wonder then, that our philosophies, our ethical
system, our literature, and the length and quality of our lives,
reflect in large measure the omnipresence of science.  But judging
from the reactions of today's society, the impact of science does not
always appear so pervasive.  Nevertheless, at critical junctures in
the past, science and medicine have radically changed the way we see
nature and ourselves.  These changes have been intellectually profound
and socially dramatic.  Historians often refer to them at scientific
revolutions.  This course will be about such revolutions in science
and medicine.  We will begin by examining the ideas of a "revolution"
and developing the Greek world view.  The rest of the semester will be
spent considering several so-called revolutionary episodes in the
history of science and medicine.  We will consider how and whether the
ideas of a revolution applies to each episode and the historical
details of what occurred during these periods of great scientific and
social change, within the overarching framework of scientific and
medical development through history (Plato to NATO).  The course will
consist of lectures, readings and discussions. Grades will be based on
a short in-class quizzes, a midterm and final, and participation of
discussion sessions. The course assumes no back-ground in science or
history.  Readings for the course come from a wide variety of sources,
including the writings of scientists (such as Galen, Harvey, Galileo,
Newton, Darwin, Pasteur, and Einstein) and possibly works of fiction
that are inspired by arising from the particular episodes we will be
investigating.