HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE | Università degli studi di Bergamo


Attività formativa monodisciplinare
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Scheda dell'insegnamento

Per studenti immatricolati al 1° anno a.a.: 
Insegnamento (nome in italiano): 
Insegnamento (nome in inglese): 
History and philosophy of science
Tipo di attività formativa: 
Attività formativa Caratterizzante
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Responsabile della didattica: 
Robert Charles ILIFFE

Altre informazioni sull'insegnamento

Modalità di erogazione: 
Didattica Convenzionale
Secondo Semestre
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Ore di attività frontale: 
Ore di studio individuale: 
Storia delle scienze


Educational goals

The aim is for the student to reach a conceptual understanding of the relationship between philosophy and science. This understanding is fundamental to the comprehension of many problems posed by ethics and politics within contemporary society.

Course content

This course deals with a broad range of themes in the history of science, including
relations between science and religion; the changing identity of the ‘scientist’ over the
last five hundred years; the use of scientific instruments to investigate the natural
world; and the various social, religious and political contexts that affected the content
and rate of change of science. It begins with the a consideration of the work of
Aristotle, which dominated Christian and Islamic scientific thought for 2 thousand
years until the early Seventeenth Century. It assesses the importance of the
Copernican Revolution and the multiple impacts in the early seventeenth century of
the introduction into natural philosophy of the experimental method and new sorts of
scientific instrument. Having examined the effects of the mechanical philosophy, the
course deals with the implications of ‘the mathematization of Nature’, looking in
particular at the work of Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton.
The second half of the course examines the development of chemical knowledge in
the period 1740 to 1840, and in particular the work and influence of Antoine Lavoisier
and Humphry Davy. It then examines discoveries and theories that led to the belief
that the Earth and the Universe were billions and not merely thousands of years old,
discoveries that paved the way for the evolutionary theories of the early nineteenth
century. The next focus is on the development of the theory of Evolution by Natural
Selection, and on discussions about how human beings could be scientifically
'improved'. Following that, we examine theories of electromagnetism, and of heat and
energy in the nineteenth century, and look at the various implications of the mid-
century invention of Thermodynamics. Finally, the course deals with the advent of
Big Science in the Twentieth Century, and with the various moral problems that have
arisen alongside undoubted advances in scientific and technical prowess.

Textbooks and reading lists

1. General
D.C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science 2nd ed., (Chicago, 2008)
P. Bowler and I. Morus, Making Modern Science. A Historical Survey, (Chicago, 2005)

2. Specific
D.C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science 2nd ed., (Chicago, 2008)
S. Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, (Chicago, 1996)

P. Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences, 2 nd ed. (Chicago, 2009)
S. Drake, Galileo at Work, (Chicago, 1978)
M. Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time. The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of
Revolution, (Chicago, 2005)
A. Desmond and J.R. Moore, Darwin's Sacred Cause (London, 2012)
D.S.L. Cardwell, From Watt to Clausius (1971)
A. Warwick, Masters of Theory. Cambridge and the rise of Mathematical physics
(Chicago, 2002)
P. Galison, Image and Logic. A Material Culture of Microphysics, (Chicago 1998)
R. Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, (New York, 1986)

Teaching methods

The teaching method, based on frontal lectures, will take the specific composition of the students into account, as well as the overall context.

Assessment and Evaluation

Oral exam.

Further information