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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Simon R. E. Werrett
HIST 388
Seattle Campus

Colloquium: Introduction to History

Introduction to the discipline of history for new or prospective majors. Emphasizes the basic skills of reading, analysis, and communication (both verbal and written) that are central to the historian's craft. Each seminar discusses a different subject or problem.

Class description


This course introduces salient themes in the history of science through the life and work of Sir Isaac Newton, and the efforts of Newton’s followers to spread his philosophy in the eighteenth century. Beside Einstein and Darwin, Newton is often regarded as one of the greatest of all scientists, on account of his remarkable achievements in the fields of physics, astronomy, optics, and the development of scientific methods. There were, however, many other sides to Newton’s work, which we shall be exploring in the first half of the course – including his religion, alchemical studies, cosmology, and medical and physiological activities. Newton’s followers are equally interesting, since they helped to spread and to shape Newtonianism for a wide public, transforming Newton’s ideas and images of Newton the man in the process. Their activities provide the focus for the second half of the course. Studying Newton is also useful for explore broader issues in the history of science, and each week will be devoted to a particular theme of investigation – for example, the relationship between science and religion, the rationality of science, the role of mind and body in science, the way science changes as it moves from place to place, and the nature of scientific ‘genius’. Seminars will discuss selected primary and secondary source readings relating to these themes, and consider how the careers of Newton and Newtonianism reflect them. Exploring these issues also provides an opportunity for participants to develop historical skills, including the assessment and use of source materials, making oral arguments on the basis of those materials, and to plan, research, and write their own historical essays.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Weekly seminar with introductory presentation by instructor, then discussion of readings based on participants' presentations.

Recommended preparation

No background in history of science required.

Class assignments and grading

Assessment will center on participation in discussion, presentation in class, and a substantial essay to be completed by the end of the 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.
Last Update by Simon R. E. Werrett
Date: 02/04/2008