History of the Sciences


At the end of this course, students have an overview of the history and of the sciences in the 20th century. They will be able to put science into a historical context. Within a dynamic perspective of the history of the sciences they will understand aspects of the internal structure of scientific knowledge as well as its relationships with social and cultural contexts.  

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Ana Maria Oliveira Carneiro


Weekly - 3

Total - 36

Teaching language





P. J. Bowler and John V. Pickstone, eds., 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. C. Olby et al., eds., Companion to the History of Modern Science (London/Nova Iorque, 1990)

R. Bud, The Uses of Life. A History of Biotechnology (Cambridge, 1994)

Teaching method

Presentation of the main topics by the lecturer. Discussion of texts read and/or films watched by the students in or prior to the lectures.

Evaluation method

Students'' evaluation will be based on:

-presence and participation in the lectures

- two mini-tests on the topics covered in the lectures, each test focussing on agreed selected topics.

- a short essay on a film

- oreal presentation on a topic selected by the students

Subject matter

  1. Notions on historiography of science. The organization of science.
  2. Ways of constructing scientific knowledge in the 19th century: Darwin and evolution; technological systems and physics; microbes.
  3. The early 20th century: a new physics – X Rays, radioactivity, the electron and New industries.
  4. New life sciences :genetics, animal and vegetal improvement  and eugenics
  5. Psychoanalysis e Psychology.
  6. The II World War and the sciences: chemical warfare and the intervention of chemists, physicists and  psychologists
  7. Problems of scale: physics and instrumentation, macromolecules, polymers and origins of molecular biology
  8. The II World War and the sciences: Manhattan Project; the radar; penicillin.
  9. Cold War Projects: scientists and nuclear warfare control; atoms for peace, ‘big science’; transistors; the space race; the green revolution.
  10. The sciences of the Cold War: markers; quarks; computers and cybernetics; DNA, radio astronomy and plate tectonics.
  11. The 1960s: science and social movements; the contraceptive pill; biomedicalization of daily life.


Programs where the course is taught: