Simon R. E. Werrett
This seminar provides an introduction to the history of the sciences in the 'Scientific Revolution' of early modern Europe (circa 1500-1800) and especially recent innovations in historical approaches to the sciences of this era. In addition to examining transformations in the scientific theories and practices of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, we shall read and analyze a series of recent historical studies of the period, focusing each week on a particular dimension of the Scientific Revolution. Seminars and readings will stress the cultural and historical context of the Scientific Revolution, making it possible to link developments in the sciences to broader historical change across Europe and beyond. We shall ask, for example, how did science become "experimental" in the seventeenth century? What role did different social groups play in early modern science – women, artisans, gentlemen, courtiers? How and when did the persona of the 'scientist' emerge in the Scientific Revolution? How did science benefit from or contribute to European colonialism? How did non-European peoples view nature in the early modern period? Students may expect to learn important and innovative approaches to the history of science, and to conduct primary research and writing skills in this area.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Some knowledge of basic developments in science in the early modern period would be an advantage, but not essential. Students are strongly encouraged to read these introductory texts before the beginning of the course: ~Peter Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and its Ambitions, 1500-1700, (Princeton University Press, 2001) ~Thomas L. Hankins, Science and the Enlightenment, (Cambridge University Press, 1985)
Class assignments and grading
Grading will be based on well-prepared participation in class discussion, and one or two oral presentations on weekly readings. There will also be a writing component – two short essays on weekly readings, and a final, more extensive (12-15 pages) research essay.