Revolutions in Science: Plato to NATO

HPSC-X102 — Fall 2020

Domenico Bertoloni Meli
Days and Times
MW 10:10 a.m. - 11:00 a.m., Discussion F 10:10 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. or 12:20 p.m. - 01:10 p.m.
Course Description

An introduction to the formative steps in the scientific tradition as well as philosophical investigations of the nature of science. The course will survey in a chronological sequence aspects of the Aristotelian world view, the Copernican revolution, the mechanical philosophy, the chemical and Darwinian revolution, and the rise of twentieth century science. Where did modern science come from? Is it a stockpile of technique and knowledge that has accumulated slowly and steadily over the centuries? This course presents a more complex and dynamic picture, in which the history of science also takes unexpected twists, turns and conceptual leaps, in response to changing social, political and religious interests, and to shifting scientific assumptions, methods, and forms of organization. The course introduces the most important formative steps in the scientific tradition, each of which overturned earlier ways of investigating and understanding nature. These include Aristotelian physics, Ptolomaic astronomy and Galenic medicine in the ancient and Medieval world; the scientific revolutions of the 15th- through the 18th centuries that ushered in Copernican astronomy, Newtonian physics, and new ideas about physiology and medicine; the chemical and Darwinian revolutions; and the rise of modern physics and other 20th-century innovations and problems. This survey of scientific change will also be used to introduce foundational issues in the history and philosophy of science, such as: What distinguishes science as a unique method of investigation? What is the relationship between theory and evidence? And what is the structure of scientific change?

3 credits

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