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The Historical Context of Modern Science . . . . . . . .. . . . .. . AS 3CF3
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Course grades should be available early in the new year.

Fall 2009 . | . Monday 14:30-17:20 . MDCL 1009

Richard T. W. Arthur . | . Office: UH305 . . .Hours: Wed 13:30 , Fri 11:30

Description  
 Required Texts 
 Syllabus
Requirements
Regulations

Description

My aim in this course is not so much to fill your heads with historical facts and dates, as to get you to look at modern science in a more informed and critical way through seeing something of the strangeness of its origins. We will be studying the develop¬ment of astronomy and cosmology from the time of the ancient Greeks to Isaac Newton, as well as certain episodes in the history of biology, optics, chemistry and physics. As we do, we shall see a recognizably modern science emerging from the welter of magical, alchemical, numerological, mechanical and religious ideas that were the source of natural philosophy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The first of our required texts is Koestler's The Sleepwalkers. It gives a lyrical overview of the beginnings of science in the number mysticism of ancient Greece, and then charts its somnambulant course to the time of Galileo (providing in passing a brilliant and astonishing biography of Kepler). Lindberg's classic textbook gives a detailed background of scientific development up to the fifteenth century. In his provocative new book, Arun Bala charges that such standard accounts do not sufficiently take into account the non-European contributions to the dialogue that created modern science, and details Chinese, Islamic, and Indian ideas on astronomy, optics and atomism. Finally, Newman contends that the experimental tradition of modern science owes a huge debt to its origins in alchemy. These accounts will be supplemented by readings from primary sources, available either in the library's e-resources, or on the web.

Required Texts

Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers (Paperback), ISBN-10: 0140192468, Penguin UK; Reprint edition (Mar 1 1990).

David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context (Paperback), ISBN-10: 0226482057, Univ. of Chicago Press; 2nd edition (April 1 2008).

Arun Bala, The Dialogue Of Civilizations In The Birth Of Modern Science (Paperback), ISBN-10: 0230609791, Palgrave Macmillan; 1st edition (Sep 16 2008).

William R. Newman, Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution (Paperback), ISBN-10: 0226576973, Univ. of Chicago Press 2006.

These texts will be supplemented by e-resources and photocopies made available.

Description  
 Required Texts 
 Syllabus
Requirements
Regulations

Course Requirements

Students must complete the following work to pass this course:

  • Contributions to class discussion (10%)
  • 2 research assignments: -one in each half of term. This consists in researching a particular topic (I shall issue lists of topic suggestions every two weeks), and then reporting on it in class. These are to be written up as short written reports (4 pp) and submitted the week after your presentation (15%, 15%)
  • A draft of a research paper on any of topic of your choice (at least 10 typed double-spaced pages), due by the end of the eighth week of term (Nov 2) (10%)
  • Final version of research paper of 15-20 typed double-spaced pages, due Nov 27 (25%)
  • Final Exam in the exam period (25%)

Grading and Course Regulations

Absences will be excused only for medical or similar reasons. If you miss an assignment, but produce an acceptable documented excuse (i. e. Dean's excuse ), your mark will be pro-rated based on the quizzes you did write. Missed exams must be negotiated through the Dean's office.

Late assignments will be penalized at the rate of 5% for every day or part of day late.

The scale used by the Registrar's Office will be used to convert number grades into letter grades.

Please retain a hard copy of all your graded work!Course evaluation forms will be distributed near the end of term.Special arrangements may be made for students with disabilities. If you need assistance because of a disability, please contact the instructor as soon as possible.

The above outline of activities and the Marking Scheme are for general guidance only. The instructor reserves the right to modify parts of either as circumstances may dictate.

E-mail policy: all e-mails must be made from your McMaster university account. E-mails from other accounts may be ignored.

Academic Dishonesty consists in misrepresentation by deception or by other fraudulent means and can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university. Examples of academic dishonesty are 1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one's own or for which other credit has been obtained. 2. Improper collaboration in group work. 3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various kinds of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, specifically Appendix 3, located at http://www.mcmaster.ca/univsec/policy/AcademicIntegrity.pdf

Description  
 Required Texts 
 Syllabus
Requirements
Regulations

Essay Draft: what is required?

The draft should allow me to see how you anticipate your argument is going to go, even if you do not have everything in place yet. You may do this either by writing a preliminary essay, or by giving me a detailed plan.

If you do the first, make it a first try at a comprehensible essay with some pointers in parentheses as to what needs further development. I would like to see a beginning, middle and end, and not something that breaks off in the middle.

If you do the second, give me a sketch of how the argument will go around a skeletal plan, with arguments sketched in enough detail for me to see what you are doing.

 

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