Home / Courses (2020-21)


Fall 2020

HPS2007H Introduction to the History of Astronomy
Tuesdays 10:00 am – 12:00 noon
Instructor: Craig Fraser
Location: TBA
Course Description: A survey of selected topics in the history of astronomy. Proceeding chronologically, we survey major achievements in astronomy, from the planetary tables of the Seleucid Babylonians to expanding-universe models of contemporary cosmology. Attention will be paid to aspects of past astronomy that have been the subject of historical interpretation and debate. Included here are discussions of the realism-instrumentalism question in ancient and medieval mathematical astronomy; the relative roles of observation and theory in the Copernican revolution; the emergence of stellar astronomy in the eighteenth century; the place of the general theory of relativity in modern theorizing about the universe; and the growing dominance since 1800 of technology in all parts of astronomy. Particular emphasis will be placed on the development of cosmology: the shift from the Ptolemaic to Copernican astronomy in the Scientific Revolution, and the rise of big-bang cosmology in the twentieth century.

HPS2009H Introduction to the History and Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Tuesdays 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Instructor: Mark Solovey
Location: TBA
Course Description: In this course we examine the history and philosophy of the social sciences.  We will study key controversies about the subject matter, methodology, and aims of the social sciences, about the relationship between the individual and society, about key concepts such as race, class, and gender, about the causes of historical change, about the prospects for social progress, and about the social relevance and uses of social science knowledge in public policy and the wider society.  We will consider how the social sciences emerged as academic disciplines, became institutionalized, and grew into modern professions.  And we will examine the social context and specific influences (i.e., industrialization, religion, politics, war, social structure, patronage, academic environment, influential personalities, etc.) that have shaped the development of the social sciences and their relevance in the wider society.

We will also use the materials from this class to examine fundamental questions about the history of science: What sorts of questions do historians of science ask? What types of frameworks of inquiry do they work with?  What sorts of answers do they offer? What kinds of evidence do they rely upon? What rhetorical strategies and story-telling techniques do they employ?

HPS3009H Slavery, Medicine and Science in Historical Perspective
Wednesdays 10:00 am – 12:00 noon
Instructor: Lucia Dacome
Location: TBA
Course Description: This course examines historical entanglements of science, medicine, and slavery. On the one hand, it considers the epistemic role of enslaved communities in the histories of science, medicine and technology. On the other hand, it articulates a critical reflection of both the different ways in which medicine and science supported the institution of slavery and the settings in which slavery was integral to the production of medical and scientific knowledge. It furthermore investigates the place of slavery in global processes of production, movement and transfer of medical and scientific knowledge and practices.

HPS4106H Technology, Environment and History
Thursdays 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Instructor: Rebecca Woods
Location: TBA
Course Description: Environmental history takes as its foundational premise that human beings shape and alter their environment, and that the rest of non-human nature, in turn, influences societies and cultures the world over. A recent generation of scholars working at the intersection of the histories of environment and of technology have further demonstrated the degree to which technologies mediate this reciprocal relationship. This course will introduce students to both the histories of human-environmental-technological interaction, on the one hand, and the historiography of this nexus on the other. The focus will be on transnational flows and interconnections between and beyond “Western” societies since circa 1800, from toxic places and toxic bodies, to nuclear energy, climate change, environmental justice, and the concept of the Anthropocene. Students will have the opportunity to build significant independent research projects over the course of the semester, with guidance on methods, archival research, and best practices for academic writing built into the structure of the course.

Winter 2021

HPS1000H Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (Pro-seminar)
Tuedays 12:00 noon – 2:00 pm
Instructor: Brian Baigrie
Location: TBA
Course Description: The purpose of this course is to introduce students to some of the key conceptual developments in the history and philosophy of science and technology. History of science and philosophy of science tend to operate at a distant remove from each other: they often employ different methodologies to address different kinds of questions. Our intent in this course is to work to identify space for positive contributions between the two fields, where historians and philosophers may productively engage with one another. To that end, the syllabus includes some of the most influential developments in each field, but also incorporates scholarly work which exemplifies productive engagement between history and philosophy. Over the course of the semester, students will gain familiarity with the methods, concepts, and contributions of both fields and, we hope, gain an appreciation for interdisciplinary approaches to the study of science and technology.

HPS4300H The Historian’s Craft: Sources, Methods, and Approaches
Thursdays 10:00 am – 12:00 noon
Instructor: Nikolai Kementsov
Location: TBA
Course Description: This graduate seminar offers an introduction to the principles of research in the history of science, medicine, and technology (HSMT). Through a close examination of classic texts and recent publications in the field, it focuses on sources, methods, and approaches in the practice of HSMT. We will explore the major genres—history of ideas, individuals, institutions, disciplines, and networks—as well as the main modes of analysis—intellectual, social, and cultural—employed in the field. The seminar will emphasize the development of skills essential to the profession—good writing, attentive reading, analytical thinking, concise presentation, academic debate, and historiographic and methodological knowledge. Each week, we will examine in depth a particular genre or level of analysis based on assigned readings and book presentations.