Simon R. E. Werrett
Study in the history of science to bridge the gap between the natural sciences and the humanities. Students should have a strong background both in history and in a natural science.
NEWTON & NEWTONIANISM
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
History and Philosophy of Science majors only.
Class assignments and grading
The course is a discussion seminar meeting once a week for two hours. There will be substantial reading for the course. You will be asked to write short response essays and a longer research paper. The grade will depend on the research paper, response essays, attendance and participation.