HSCI 3023 900: History of Science from Newton to the Present
History of Science Department
University of Oklahoma
Summer Session 2014

John Stewart
Office: Physical Sciences Building 608
Tutorial/office hours: M-F 8:30am – 10:30am and by appointment (please email first)

Monday through Friday: 10:30am – 12:30pm
Physical Sciences 117

Aims of the course

This course uses literature to examine the cultural impact of science from the 18th century to the present.  From the early explorations of both the terrestrial and celestial spheres to the modern satires of corporate laboratories, science has been portrayed in ambiguous or even negative ways.  Despite or perhaps because of its contributions to modernity, science has been associated with Promethean technological advances and their occasionally unethical applications.  Through the lectures and readings, this course will tease out the history of science, its socio-cultural and political appropriations, and the negotiated roles of the public readers. 

This course is designed to develop your ability to understand primary sources sympathetically, to evaluate and build on secondary sources critically, and to apply ideas in history of science to the description and explanation of historical events.


(15%) Quizzes, homework, and content curation—There will be about fifteen online assignments, quizzes, and in class discussion assignments.  Occasional in-class quizzes will consist of 4-5 short questions or a short response paragraph.  Students will frequently be asked to answer a question or series of questions about the course material.  

Over the course of the semester, each student is also responsible for creating three blogs with links to interesting blogs, videos, or images related to a particular days material.  These need to be completed before the start of that days class.  The students should provide the link and a 5 sentence description of the material and its relevance to the class.

(20%) For the first essay, each discussion group will be assigned one of the major novels for the course.  The group will be responsible for writing an 8-10 page paper on the book, including a two page summary of the book and a two page section on the author and the society in which he or she lived.  The last four pages should discuss the representation of science within the book and how the book influenced science in the years following its publication.  In addition to the novel, each paper should use at least two secondary sources (for example a biography of the author) and two primary sources (e.g. relevant contemporary scientific papers or book reviews).  These papers will serve as the text for a Blog post.  Each group will be responsible for embedding a video clip and images that depict the scientific themes of the novel.  Each group will present their book in class and the blogs will be live on our course page.  Grading will be based primarily on the text of the blog, but the integration of media and links and the appearance of the Blog will also be considered (the rubric is available on D2L).  

(20%) For the second essay, students will choose from a list of novels and movies not discussed in class and research that work’s scientific concepts.  Drawing on course material and at least five outside sources, students will situate the text within the larger scientific and social contexts.  Students may suggest a work not on the list, but these must be approved by the lecturer.  Students will write a 500 word blog entry and give a brief five minute presentation to the class.  These two assignments will be due on a rolling basis throughout the summer session, dependent on when your book is most relevant to the class.  Students will also write a longer essay of 2000-2500 words.  These essays should also be submitted as blog entries on our course web page.  They are due before class on July 2.

(20%) The midterm exam will be divided into a short answer section and an essay section.  Each section will have equal weight in the grading.  Three possible essay questions will be provided on Monday, March 3rd, and the exam will be administered in class on Friday, March 7th.

(25%) The final exam will be cumulative and will be divided into a short answer section and an essay section.  Each section will have equal weight in the grading.  Three possible essay questions will be provided on May 1st, and the exam will be administered from 4:30pm-6:30pm on Friday, May 9th.

Special Note

Any student in this course who has a disability that may prevent him or her from fully demonstrating his or her abilities should contact me personally as soon as possible so that we can discuss accommodations necessary to ensure full participation and facilitate your educational opportunities.

Academic Integrity

Please be aware of the seriousness of plagiarism.  It is imperative that you acknowledge all sources.  Plagiarism is defined as the unacknowledged use of specific ideas, arguments, or extended passages from any source.  It is an extremely serious academic offense (to say nothing of the moral issues involved); you may wish to consult the Student Code for penalties.  For your convenience, the Provost has created a comprehensive website on academic integrity at

Required Texts

We will use the following books throughout the course.  The listed editions are available online.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Broadview Press, 2012. ISBN: 9781554811038

H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr Moreau, Broadview Press, 2009. ISBN: 9781551113272

Masuji Ibuse, Black Rain, Kodansha USA, 2012. ISBN: 9781568364179

Jim Ottiavani, Fallout, G.T. Labs, 2001. ISBN: 9780966010633

Additional required reading materials will be available on our course website and Desire to Learn, OU’s virtual learning environment (  Additional resources useful for essay-writing will generally be available in the History of Science Library.  To help you research deeper into particular topics (especially for the purpose of the essays), I will be producing separate documents containing further readings and possible questions to investigate.  These documents will be uploaded on Learn as they become available.

Schedule of Lectures, REQUIRED Readings, and Assignments

Day 1. Introduction: What is Science? Why do we care about its history? (Monday, June 9)

Discussion: What is Science?

  • Homework: read “Plagiarism” and take the online quiz on
  • Homework: Peter Dear, Intelligibility of Nature, ch. 1 [pdf provided]

Day 2.  Galileo, Descartes, and Newton (Tuesday, June 10)

Discussion: Advising the Pope

  • Homework: Charlotte Sleigh, Literature & Science, “Introduction” [pdf provided]

Day 3. Coffee Shop (Wednesday, June 11)

Discussion: 18th century perceptions of women and women’s education

  • Homework:

Day 4. Chemistry and the Industrial Revolution (Thursday, June 12)

  • Homework:

Day 5. Electricity and Romanticism (Friday, June 13)

  • Homework:

Day 6. Frankenstein (Monday, June 16)

1st Group Presentation

  • Homework:

Day 7. The Species Concept and Transmutation (Tuesday, June 17)

  • Homework:

Day 8. Darwinism (Wednesday, June 18)

Discussion: Eugenics

Homework: read H.G. Wells’s Island of Doctor Moreau

  • Homework:

Day 9. Plasticity, Eugenics & Island of Doctor Moreau (Thursday, June 19)

2nd Group presentation

Discussion: midterm test review

  • Homework:

Day 10. Midterm Exam & Classical Physics (Friday, June 20)

Discussion: Rudyard Kipling, “The Deep Sea Cables” [pdf provided]

  • Homework: excerpts from Arthur Miller, Einstein & Picasso [pdf provided]

Day 11. Space & Time, Science & Art (Monday, June 23)


Day 12.  Radioactivity and Quantum Mechanics (Tuesday, June 24)


  • Homework: excerpts from Jim Ottiavani’s Fallout [pdf provided]

Day 13. Fission and the Manhattan Project (Wednesday, June 25)


  • Homework:

Day 14. Black Rain and the Decision to Use the Bomb (Thursday, June 26)

Group presentation number 3

  • Homework: J. G. Ballard, “The Terminal Beach” [pdf provided]

Day 15. Nuclear Proliferation and the Cold War (Friday, June 27)


Day 16. Silent Spring (Monday, June 30)

Day 17. Climate Change and the Merchants of Doubt (Tuesday, July 1)

  • Homework: Paolo Bacigalupi, “The Calorie Man” [pdf provided]

Day 18. GM Crops (Wednesday, July 2)

Personal Essays Due

Lecture: Monsanto and GM Crops

Discussion: Class Review

Discussion: Exam Review

Day 19. Final Exam (Thursday, July 3)

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HSCI 3023 by John Stewart History of Science Departent University of Oklahoma

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