Science and Modern Life from Frankenstein to Google

Science and Modern Life from Frankenstein to Google

History 615/635

Spring 2010

Daniel J. Cohen

Course description:

This course is an exploration of how science and scientific institutions affected American and European culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Discussions, based primarily on critical primary sources, will focus on the rise of science as a premiere authority and its impact on intellectual life, politics, literature, and art. Of central concern will be the simultaneous fear and euphoria surrounding modern scientific advances. Topics include the transforming technologies of the industrial revolution such as factory innovations and railroads, Positivism, Darwinism and its antagonists, science and notions of race and gender, the professionalization of science, the technology of warfare and the rise of digital technology. Readings include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Grades for the course will be based on:

1) A research paper (50%), on a topic in the history of modern science of the student’s choosing.

2) Weekly contributions to your blog (25%), including comments on other students’ blogs. Blogs will be set up on WordPress at the first class.

3) Class participation (25%), which is expected by all at every session.

Assigned books (ISBNs):

Evolution by Peter Bowler (0520236939)
By the Bomb’s Early Light by Paul Boyer (0807844802)
Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson (0465075102)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (0393964582)
Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells (0375760969)
Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn (Chicago, 3rd ed., 1996) (0226458083)
Neuromancer by William Gibson (0441569595)


January 20 – Science before 1800: What It Was, Who Engaged in It, and Where

» Paintings: Joseph Wright of Derby, “Experiment on a Bird in the Airpump” (1768); “The Alchemist in Search of the Philosophers Stone” (1771)

» Excerpts from the Scientific Revolution: Francis Bacon, Aphorisms (selected); Isaac Newton, “The Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy

January 27 – Science circa 1800: In Reality and in the Popular Imagination

» Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (the original text only)

» Paintings: Caspar David Friedrich, “The Sea of Ice” (1823-25), “Chalk Cliffs on Rugen” (1818-19); J.M.W. Turner, “Fishermen at Sea” (1796)

February 3The First Industrial Revolution: The Division of Labor, Mills, and Steam

» Paintings: J.M.W. Turner, “The Fighting Temeraire” (1838), “Rain, Steam, and Speed” (1844)

» Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chs. 1-3

» Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of Manufactures (selection, Read preface and ch. 1 at Google Books; engraving)

>February 10 – The New Geology and its Implications

» Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, Chs. 3-4

» Peter Bowler, Evolution: The History of an Idea, pp. 1-150

February 17 – Evolution by Natural Selection

» Darwin, On the Origin of Species (first ed.), Introduction & Chs. 1-4,6,10,14

» Bowler, Evolution, pp. 151-217

February 24 – Evolution and Human Beings

» Darwin, The Descent of Man, Introduction, Part I, Chs. 1-7

» Illustrations: Caricatures of Darwin and his circle

March 3 – In the Wake of Darwin I: Science and Religion

» Samuel Wilberforce, “On Darwin’s Origin of Species

» J. H. Gladstone, “Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science

» St. George Jackson Mivart, “On the Genesis of the Species

» Thomas Henry Huxley, Evolution and Ethics, Ch. II (pp. 46-116)

» Bowler, Evolution, pp. 218-245

March 17In the Wake of Darwin II: Social Darwinism and Eugenics

» H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau (all)

» Bowler, Evolution, pp. 282-332

March 24 – Darwinism Comes to America

» Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods (all)

» Writings by American naturalists Asa Gray (Article 1 only) and Louis Agassiz

March 31 – The Second Industrial Revolution

» Frederick Taylor, Principles of Scientific Management (excerpts)

» Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times (DVD on reserve)

April 7 – The Nuclear Age Dawns

» Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light, pp. 3-26, 49-106, 109-351

» Life Magazine, 1954

April 14 – Computers, Networks, Artificial Intelligence, and the Digital Age

» William Gibson, Neuromancer (all)

» Clips from Blade Runner

April 21Thoughts on the History of Modern Science

» Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (all)

April 28 – The Digital Revolution

» Google Founders’ Letter: “Don’t Be Evil” (first 2 sections only)

» Jaron Lanier, “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism

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