Introduction to History and Sociology of Science

Course Description: 

This is a required core seminar for students in the Science Studies specialization, but it is open to other students with the permission of the instructors. The selection of course readings does not assume any prior training in history and sociology of science, and for that reason the readings will perform a dual function: they will introduce students to major problems, methods, and resources in the history and sociology of science, but they will also sample from a diverse set of disciplines, locales, and periods (albeit with a modern bias), so that neophytes will come away with a clearer view of the contours of science. Although environmental history will be somewhat neglected, we will attempt to take a broader view of medicine and technology as well, insofar as their historiographies intersect with that of the sciences. While the geography of the subject matter may be somewhat Eurocentric, this is more in a functional than a pejorative sense, and as we identify the research interests of the students in attendance, we will strive in class to be mindful in reflexive terms of the limitations that stem from filtering our methodological introduction through the available corpus of Anglophone literature.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will gain a working familiarity with major debates in science studies since the heyday of Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. They will be introduced to basic methods of history and social theory as applied to critiques of science broadly construed, with topics ranging from early modern natural philosophy to the physical sciences, life sciences, and technology.  

Assessment: 

 Three very short reader-response papers (45%); class participation (25%); short take-home exam (30%).