Phil. 3410: History of Science, Ancients to Newton
Spring, 1999

Office: 266 Hellems
Hours: after class (MWF, 11 and 2 pm)

General description:

The aim of the class is to understand how scientific thinking emerged and developed out of prescientific thought about nature. We trace this development from the ancient Greeks to medieval thinkers in Europe. Along the way, we'll pay special attention to how science differs from other ways of approaching nature. (Contrary to the title, we probably will not get to Newton.)

The format will be lectures based on the textbook, interspersed, hopefully, with class discussion.


The Beginnings of Western Science by David C. Lindberg, available at the CU book store.


There will be 5 in-class tests (multiple choice, short answer, short essay). You will be tested both on (important) historical facts and on broader, more philosophical ideas discussed in the book and in class.

Grades will be 'curved' so as to make the class average a B-. Usually, this requires setting a grade scale something like the following: 85-100=A, 70-85=B, etc. (the numbers are adjusted slightly, depending on how well the class is doing).

Who should take this class?

You should take the class if you are interested in the stuff described in the "general description" above.

Some of you will be taking this class as an easy way to satisfy a natural science requirement. Ancient and medieval science is not heavily mathematical like modern science. In that respect, the class will be easier than typical science classes. However, be forewarned that we will still be dealing with some abstract and unfamiliar ideas. There is also a large amount of information that needs to be covered, since we're dealing with about 2000 years of intellectual history. So if you are looking for an especially easy class, look elsewhere.

Other guidelines:

1. You can call the first phone number above before midnight or after 10 a.m. Leave a message, since I screen my calls. Or, better, send email.

2. Come to my office periodically to talk and ask questions. Come especially when you feel confused. You will leave feeling clearer & smarter.

3. Participate in class. Ask questions about anything you don't understand, and argue about anything controversial.

4. I will post copies of my lecture notes + other information about the class on my web page (address above).

5. I do not take attendance; it is up to you to decide whether you want to come or not. However, be advised that test scores generally correlate positively with attendance and with keeping up on readings.

6. Please do not come to class late. It is rude, distracting, and gives the impression that you are not taking the class seriously.

W, Jan 19 Introduction. The nature & importance of science.
F, Jan 21 Chapter 1: Science & Its Origins
M, Jan 24 more ch. 1
W, Jan 26 Chapter 2: The Greeks & the Cosmos
F, Jan 28 more ch. 2
M, Jan 31 more
W, Feb 2 Chapter 3: Aristotle's Philosophy of Nature
F, Feb 4 more
M, Feb 7 more
W, Feb 9 Test #1.
F, Feb 11 Chapter 4: Hellenistic Natural Philosophy
M, Feb 14 more
W, Feb 16 Chapter 5: Mathematics in Antiquity
F, Feb 18 more
M, Feb 21 more
W, Feb 23 Chapter 6: Greek & Roman Medicine
F, Feb 25 more
M, Feb 28 more
W, Mar 1 Test #2.
F, Mar 3 Chapter 7: Roman & Early Medieval Science
M, Mar 6 more
W, Mar 8 more
F, Mar 10 Chapter 8: Science in Islam
M, Mar 13 more
W, Mar 15 Chapter 9: The Revival of Learning in the West
F, Mar 17 more
M, Mar 20 more
W, Mar 22 Test #3.
F, Mar 24 Chapter 10: The Recovery & Assimilation of Greek & Islamic Science
M, Apr 3 more
W, Apr 5 more
F, Apr 7 Chapter 11: The Medieval Cosmos
M, Apr 10 more
W, Apr 12 more
F, Apr 14 Test #4.
M, Apr 17 Chapter 12: The Physics of the Sublunar Region
W, Apr 19 more
F, Apr 21 more
M, Apr 24 Chapter 13: Medieval Medicine & Natural History
W, Apr 26 more
F, Apr 28 more
M, May 1 Chapter 14: The Legacy of Ancient & Medieval Science
W, May 3 more
F, May 5 Test #5.