What is the course about?
What we call science takes many forms, from investigating the smallest constituents of matter, to producing new
drugs to combat disease, to understanding the life cycle of stars. What, if anything, do these activities have in
common? In this course we will uncover a fascinating story of how science has developed and diversified over the
past three millennia, at the same time identifying a set of characteristics which distinguish scientific endeavour from
other forms of human activity.
What will we cover?
• The birth of science – evidence of scientific thought in early civilizations
• The quest for the philosopher’s stone – the shape of science in the middle ages
• Enlightened science – understanding why science flourished from the 15th century onwards
• Much heat and light – the growth of physics up to the 19th century
• 'The New Men' – physics in the 20th and 21st centuries
• The elements of chaos – atoms and molecules become the building blocks of chemistry
• No monkey business – how biology shook the world with the advent of evolution in the 19th century
• Unlocking the genetics of life – biology in the 20th and 21st centuries.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Identify what distinguishes science from other human activities.
- Explain how the main areas of science have developed and become distinct over time.
- Describe the multifaceted interplay between science and society through the centuries.
- Envisage some potential outcomes of trends in scientific development observable in our present day.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course and is open to all. No prior knowledge of the subject is required.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
You will be taught in a number of different ways including presentations with visual examples, discussions and group
work. We will consider historical records and students will be encouraged to form their own interpretation of
the topics studied. There will be no work outside of the class -- the tutor can suggest optional wider reading but this
is not essential in order to follow the course.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
A notepad and pen will be required if you wish to take notes. There are no other costs for the course.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
HS135 Astronomy in focus: Human exploration to the moon and beyond
HS201 Professor Ian Crawford on cosmic perspectives for world history
HS024 Exploring rocks, minerals and fossils
HS117 The geology beneath British landscapes
HS181 The physics of time
HS157 Great botanists
HS187 British nature writing: its history and changing perspectives.
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details