History and Philosophy Of Science | Scientific Revolutions: Plato to NATO
X102 | 2904 | Rebecca Willis


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 philosophers, our ethical
systems, 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 as
scientific revolutions.  This course will be about such revolutions
in science and medicine.  We will begin by examining the ideas
of “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 great 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 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.