History of Science and Technology

Five College History of Science Courses


ANT 135/ARC 135 Introduction to Archaeology

Maxine Oland

M W 2:40-4:00

The study of past cultures and societies through their material remains.  How archaeologists use different field methods, analytical techniques, and theoretical approaches to investigate, reconstruct, and learn from the past.  Data from settlement surveys, site excavations, and artifact analysis are used to address economic, social, political, and ideological questions across time and space.  Course taught from an anthropological perspective, exploring key transitions in human prehistory, including the origins of food production, social inequality, and state-level societies across the globe.  Relevance of archaeological practice in modern political, economic, and social contexts is explored. 


ANT 248  Medical Anthropology

Donald Joralemon

T Th 9:0-10:20

The cultural construction of illness through an examination of systems of diagnosis, classification, and therapy in both non-Western and Western societies.  Special attention given to the role of the traditional healer.  The anthropological contribution to international health care and to the training of physicians in the United States. 


AST 102 Sky and Time

Suzan Edwards/Meg Thacher

Lecture T 1:00-3:50/Lab W 7:30-9:00

This course explores the astronomical roots of clocks and calendars, and relies on both real and simulated observations of the sun, moon and stars. In addition to weekly projects based on collecting and interpreting data, students independently research a clock and a calendar from another culture, either ancient or modern.  There are no prerequisites, and students from all disciplines and backgrounds are welcome.  


FYS 191  Sense and Essence in Nature

Lâle Aka Burk (Chemistry)

FY SEMINAR M W 1:10-2:30

This course will focus on fragrant plants with emphasis on their science as well as their use and economic significance in different parts of the world.  Throughout history aromatic plant materials have been utilized as cures, perfumes and flavorings, and their extensive use continues at the present.  The chemistry, botany and bioactivities of these natural products will provide the scientific content for the course.  Their consideration in historical and cultural contexts, and also their depiction in literature and in art will provide an interdisciplinary approach to the subject matter.


PHI 224  History and Philosophy of Science

Jeffry Ramsey

M W 1:10-2:30

Case studies in the history of science are used to examine philosophical issues as they arise in scientific practice.  Topics include the relative importance of theories, models and experiments; realism; explanation; confirmation of theories and hypotheses; causes; and the role of values in science.



180 The History of Science and Technology in the Western World, Part I

(HS)  Brian Ogilvie

TuTh 9:30 – 10:20 (plus discussion)

Hist 180 and its companion Hist 181 have two goals: first, to explore the ways in which science and technology have helped various Western societies make sense of, and manipulate, their worlds and themselves; and second, to appreciate how science and techno­logy reflect their historical periods and contexts.  Part I explores the Greek fascination with modeling the cosmos and with the nature of formal scientific explanation; the roots of Western technological dynamism in the Middle Ages; the role of Scholasticism and the medieval university in the institution­al­ization of scientific thought; and the creation of a new quantitative framework of experience by Renaissance explorers, engineers, merchants, and astronomers.  Part II covers the centuries from the Scientific Revolution to the Space Age.  Both parts are designed to meet the University’s requirements for General Education and Historical Studies by introducing you to subjects and perspectives you might not otherwise encounter, and by offering opportunities for the exercise of skills of reading, writing, and analysis.  They should also open up a fascinating past and help us all become critically informed participants in and consumers of modern technoscience.  There are no prerequisites, although some background in Western Civilization is a great help.


91AH Rise and Fall of the Rocket State (Honors)

Larry Owens
Tu 1:00 – 3:30

America's rocket ride to the moon was based on the cannonball physics of Galileo and Newton, foreshadowed by Verne's vision of the Baltimore Gun Club, and driven by the needs of the cold war.  The Rocket State was an extraordinary amalgam of fact, fantasy, and the fear of Armageddon that had profound consequences for American politics and culture in the years after World War Two.  We'll explore its rise and fall, focusing on four of its characteristic technologies that emerged from WWII - the atomic bomb, the rocket, the computer, and an organizing social vision based on the secret laboratories of the Manhattan Project.  In addition to some first-rate scholarship, we'll read quite of lot of science fiction - the defining literature of the cold war Rocket State.  In short, this course is about a time in American history when the country learned how to build rockets and
sought to redefine itself and its culture in their image.  You'll do several in-class reports (depending on enrolment) and a final paper of 8-10 pages. THE DRAFT OF THE PAPER WILL BE DUE THREE WEEKS BEFORE THE END OF CLASSES! Grades will be based on these assignments, classroom participation, and your success in dealing with various necessary deadlines.


391CH Comparative Scientific Traditions (Honors)

Larry Owens

Th 1:00-3:30

Modern science is largely the product of the European Scientific Revolution and the subsequent rise of an industrialized West. What shouldn't be forgotten, however, is that "science" has flourished earlier and elsewhere; but, while, European science expanded dramatically over the last three centuries, other scientific traditions went into decline. What allows "science" to develop in the first place, what permits it to endure, and what accounts for the various trajectories that science follows in different times and cultures? We'll explore those questions by investigating the intellectual, economic, and institutional factors that mediate science and culture - in ancient Greece, early Islam, Europe, China, and in a variety of places less familiar such as Micronesia. There'll be a large amount of reading, a number of shorter papers and in-class presentations, and finally, and hopefully, a healthy uncertainty about what constitutes good "science" and why.




CS 0180-1 History of Science in the Muslim World

Salman Hameed

M  2:30-5:20

History of western science would be incomplete without the inclusion of Arab and Muslim contributions in the Middle Ages. In this course we will explore some of the reasons behind the outstanding growth of scientific reasoning in the Islamic world, including the motivation for translating Greek works and the role of religion in the early progress of science. While we are familiar with prominent Greek philosophers and scientific personalities of the post- Renaissance era, the lives of many Muslim scientists such as Al-Haytham (Alhazen), Ibn-Sina (Avicena), Ibn-Rushd (Averros) and their contributions remain largely unknown to many students. We will also explore the fascinating philosophical struggle between the rationalist and the traditionalist (orthodox) philosophers. The course will conclude with a look at the reasons for the later decline of scientific thinking in the Muslim world and the contemporary struggles to reconcile modern science with traditional religious systems.

Course Notes

Mind, Brain, and Information Multiple Cultural Perspectives Writing and Research


Reg #      Section    Credits   Instructors          Meeting Times           Location     

308939    1               4.00        Salman Hameed   2:30PM-5:20PM - M   Adele Simmons Hall 222  






Five College History of Science Courses


Spring 2013 - TBA








Mount Holyoke








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History of Science and Technology
Smith College
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063