History of Science


This course aims at providing students with the capabilities of:

1- Understanding the dynamiscs of science from a historical perspective.

2- Understanding the internal structure of scientific knowledge and of its relations with various social, economic, and cultural contexts throughout history.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Ana Maria Oliveira Carneiro


Weekly - 3

Total - 63

Teaching language






 P. J. Bowler and John V. Pickstone, The Cambridge History of Science: Volume 6, Modern Life and Earth Sciences (Cambridge, 2009)

 P. J.  Bowler & I. R. Morus, Making Modern Science. A Historical Survey (Chicago, 2005)

R. Porter, ed.,  The Cambridge History of Science: Volume 4, Eighteenth-Century Science: Eighteenth-century Science Vol 4  (Cambridge, 2003) 

 R. C. Olby et al., eds., Companion to the History of Modern Science, (London/Nova Iorque, 1990)


Teaching method

Teaching methods are diversified and include:

-   Introductory lectures to specific topics

-  Discussion and critical analysis of texts and audio-visual materials

- Research and systematization of scientific information and secondary sources carried out by the students

Evaluation method


- five short essays on selected papers;

- one long essay on a selected work in accordance with the student’s interests;

- participation in the lectures.

Subject matter

Elements of History of Science: 

Practices of reason: the pre-classic empires and the first steps towards a proto-scientific rationality. Greece and the birth of a scientific rationality: physics and mathematics as the foundations of a new cognitive architecture. The cognitive world of Medieval Europe: theology and symbolism. The concept of a closed universe as the foundation of knowledge. A dangerous practice: alchemy. The Renaissance: Leonardo and observation; Galileo and the scientific method. Dominating nature. Newton''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''s universe and mechanism. The enlightenment: utility and progress. Science and Enlightenment: the extension of the Newtonian paradigm.  Newtonians and ‘Newtonianisms’ . Lavoisier and the chemical revolution. The nineteenth century: the limits of mechanism. Irreversibility in physics, geology and the natural sciences. Atoms in physics and chemistry. The development of field theories: from Faraday to Maxwell. Epistemology and society in the twentieth century: a faster and smaller world. The physics of ether and its problems. Einstein and the origins of restrict relativity. New notions of space, time and simultaneity and the predictability of theory. Atomic structure and quantum theories. Light and matter.


Programs where the course is taught: