Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Bruce W Hevly
HIST 311
Seattle Campus

Science in Civilization: Antiquity to 1600

From preclassical antiquity to the end of the Middle Ages, stressing the growth of scientific ideas, the cultural context in which they take shape, and their relationship to other movements of thought in the history of civilization.

Class description

This course is an introduction to the history of science from prehistory to the early seventeenth century, and to the means by which historians of science construct such accounts. It will begin with the idea of science as a culture's systematic worldview, dependent on a view of nature in context, by looking at cosmological ideas in prehistory. The course will then look at the creation of natural knowledge in Egypt, Mesopotamia, classical Greece and Rome, early Islam, the European Middle Ages and Renaissance Europe. We will look at questions of cause and effect related to astronomy, optics, mathematics, the sciences of motion, biology and medicine, and relate them to cultural contexts.

Student learning goals

Understand and be able to use a basic narrative of the development of systematic shared understandtings of nature from 500 BCE to 1600 BCE, including understanding the problems and limitations of such an enterprise.

Understand and be able to deploy the idea of a Platonic-Aristotelian tension in relevant contexts during the period under study.

Be able to apply critically interpretive ideas relevant to particular contexts.

Understand the basic contours of the relationships among natural philosophy and religions (Islam, Judaism, variants on Christianity)during this period.

Understand and be able to deploy the essay form to make a contextual, historical argument.

Be able to articulate the problems particularly relevant to the history of science, as opposed to other areas of historical study.

General method of instruction

Lectures and discussions; student responses in the form of participation in discussion and written work.

Recommended preparation

No background in history or science is assumed; this is an introductory course.

Class assignments and grading

Lecture course with weekly discussion sections. Students will be expected to understand the basic narrative of the history of science within the contexts given above, how to make contextual arguments about science, and the kind of critical questions and methods used to revise the established story. Grades will be assigned based on ability to communicate this understanding on essays and exams.

At least two short essays; two midterms and a final exam; participation in work of weekly sections. Other short writing assignments may be assigned; this is a W course.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Bruce W Hevly
Date: 05/09/2012