History of science course

This course, History of Science (SCI530), is designed for secondary science teachers and graduate students in science education.  The course provides an overview of the major episodes in the history of science from the scientific revolution to modern day science stressing the interaction of scientific ideas within their social and cultural contexts.  In addition, we examine best practices for utilizing the history of science in the secondary science classroom to illustrate the nature of science, scientific practices, etc.  Course participants will have opportunities to reflect on how they may apply the course material to their own classroom practices.

Please see the course syllabus for general information about the course.

The course utilizes the following texts:

Making Modern ScienceCopenhagen

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Note: Each of these is available as a Kindle ebook if you prefer.

Major assignments:

  • Weekly reading notes: Each week you are responsible for filling out a weekly reading note for the combined course readings to enhance the in-class discussions.
  • Final Project:
    • The final project for the course will challenge you to identify specific episodes in the history of science relevant to your current (or future) teaching assignment and to prepare materials to integrate those episodes into instruction. Specific sections of the final project include a) a case study for students; and b) an activity integrating content and history.
  • Facilitated Seminar Discussion:
    • Each week multiple students will play an enhanced role in the seminar and do additional readings related to the topic. Roles may include:
      • Delivering a short (10-15 minute) summary of the course readings.
      • Reading additional primary and secondary literature sources.
      • Engaging the class in classroom activities based on the weekly topic.

Weekly reading schedule:

  • Week #1 – Course introduction
    • Initial history of science survey
  • Week #2 – The historiography of science and framing history of science in science education
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 1 “Introduction: Science, Society, and History”
    • Additional readings:
    • Reader #1:
      • McComas, W. F. (2011). The history of science and the future of science education. In P. V. Kokkotas, K. S. Malamitsa, & A. A. Rizaki (Eds.), Adapting Historical Knowledge Production to the Classroom (pp. 37–54). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
    • Reader #2:
      • Golinski, J. (2008). Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and The History Of Science. University of Chicago Press. (chapter 1)
  • Week #3 – The scientific revolution (Copernicus to Newton):
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 2 “The Scientific Revolution”
      • Reflection topic: What was unique about the scientific revolution? Why is this seen as a major milestone in Western history? Why is this period regarded as the beginning of science as we know it today?
    • Additional readings:
      • Reader #1:
        • Selection from “Novum Organum” by Francis Bacon (1620).
        • Straulino, S., & Terzuoli, A. (2010). Exploring Galileo’s Telescope. Science Scope, 33(7), 40-44.
      • Reader #2:
      • Reader #3:
        • Lloyd, G. E. R. (2012). Early greek science: Thales to Aristotle. Random House. (Intro & Chapter 1)
  • Week #4 – The chemical revolution:
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 3 “The Chemical Revolution” and Ch. 10 “Continental Drift”
      • Reflection topic (Ch. 3): What was essential to the phlogiston vs. oxygen debate? How was the debate finally resolved?
      • Additional readings:
        • Reader #1:
          • Allchin, D. (2013). Rekindling phlogiston. In Teaching the Nature of Science: Perspectives and Resources (pp. 184-201). Saint Paul, MN: SHiPS Education Press.
  • Week #5 – The Age of the Earth:
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 5 “Age of the Earth”
    • Additional readings:
      • Readers #1 & #2:
        • Stinner, A., & Teichmann, J. (2003). Lord Kelvin and the age-of-the-earth debate: a dramatization. Science & Education, 12(2), 213-228.
  • Week #6 – The Darwinian revolution (part 1):
    • Midterm exam
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 6 “The Darwinian Revolution” (p. 129-149)
      • Reflection topic (Ch. 6): As this chapter illustrates, the question of the origin (or creation) of species was being asked well before Darwin. Many equally intelligent people had tackled the problem. However, 150 years later, it is Darwin’s theory that has lasted. What was different or unique about his theory? What and who were his major influences that shaped his thinking?
    • Additional readings:
      • Reader #1:
        • McComas, W. F. (2012). Darwin’s invention: inheritance & the” mad dream” of pangenesis. The American Biology Teacher, 74(2), 86-91.
        • McComas, W. F. (2012). Darwin’s error: Using the story of pangenesis to illustrate aspects of nature of science in the classroom. The american biology Teacher, 74(3), 151-156.
      • Reader #2:
        • Selected readings from Lamarck and Lyell.
  • Week #7 – The Darwinian revolution (part 2):
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 6 “The Darwinian Revolution” (p. 149-end)
    • Additional readings:
    • Reader #1:
      • Farber, P. (2003). Teaching evolution & the nature of science. The American Biology Teacher, 65(5), 347–354.
    • Reader #2:
      • Allchin, D. (2013). Kettlewell’s missing evidence: A study in black and white. In Teaching the Nature of Science: Perspectives and Resources (pp. 121-132). Saint Paul, MN: SHiPS Education Press.
  • Week #8 – The New Biology and Genetics:
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 7 “The New Biology” and Ch. 8 “Genetics”
      • Reflection topic (Ch. 8): How did our modern conception of genetics form?  What were the initial ideas about heredity and in what contexts was an understanding of heredity important?
    • Additional readings:
      • Reader #1:
        • Huxley, J. (1942). Evolution. The Modern Synthesis. Evolution. The Modern Synthesis. (selection)
      • Reader #2:
        • El-Hani, C. N. (2014). Mendel in genetics teaching: Some contributions from history of science and articles for teachers. Science & Education, 1-32.
  • Week #9 – The Discovery of DNA:
    • Watson, J.D. (2011). The double helix: A personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA. Scribner.
    • Additional readings:
      • Reader #1:
      • Reader #2:
        • Emani, C. (2010). Using the “DNA story” to inculcate a scientific thought process in the classroom. The American Biology Teacher, 72(7), 410-413.
  • Week #10 – Continental Drift:
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 10 “Continental Drift”
      • Reflection topic (Ch. 10): What was unique about Weneger’s theory of continental drift? How did it relate to previous theories? Most importantly, why did it take so long to be accepted? What factors kept it from being accepted and which finally led to its acceptance?
    • Additional readings:
    • Reader #1:
      • Allchin, D. (2013). Rekindling phlogiston. In Teaching the Nature of Science: Perspectives and Resources (pp. 184-201). Saint Paul, MN: SHiPS Education Press.
    • Reader #2:
      • Clary, R., & Wandersee, J. (2011). Krakatoa Erupts!: Using a Historic Cataclysm to Teach Modern Science. Science Teacher, 78(9), 42-47.
  • Week #11 – Revolutions in relativity and quantum mechanics:
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 11 “Twentieth-Century Physics”
      • Reflection topic (Ch. 11): What’s the significance of the physics revolution in the early 20th century [relativity and quantum mechanics]? Who were the major players and what were the major intellectual ideas of the era?
    • Frayn, M. (1998). Copenhagen. Random House LLC.
      • Reflection topic (Frayn): How does Frayn utilize the ideas of complementarity and uncertainty to provide an account of Bohr and Heisenberg’s meeting at Bohr’s house in Copenhagen in September 1941?
    • Additional readings:
      • Reader #1:
        • Isaacson, W. (2007). Einstein: His life and universe. Simon and Schuster. (Chapter 6)
  • Week #12 – Ecology and Environmentalism and Revolutionizing Cosmology:
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Ch. 9 “Ecology and Environmentalism” and Ch. 12 “Revolutionizing Cosmology”
    • Additional readings:
      • Reader #1:
        • Howe, E. M. (2009). Henry David Thoreau, forest succession & the nature of science: a method for curriculum development. The American Biology Teacher,71(7), 397-404.
      • Reader #2:
        • Smith, R. W. (1990). Edwin P. Hubble and the transformation of cosmology.Physics today, 43(4), 52-58.
  • Week #13 – No class (work on final project)
  • Weeks #14 & #15 – Major themes in the history of science:
    • Making Modern Science (Bowler) Choose one chapter from Section II (Ch. 14-21).
  • Finals – Final project:
    • Final project presentations

Useful links: