History of Science


This course aims at providing students with the capabilities of:

1- Understanding the dynamics 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

Isabel Maria da Silva Pereira Amaral


Weekly - Available soon

Total - 48

Teaching language



1st Degree



 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 for a History of Sciences:

• Practices of reason: Pre-classical Empires and the first steps towards proto-scientific rationality.

• Greece and the birth of scientific rationality: physics and mathematics as pillars 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.

• Renaissance: Leonardo and observation; Galileo and the scientific method. The concept of mastery over nature. Newton''s universe and mechanicism.

• The Enlightenment, the concepts of utility and progress. Science and the Enlightenment: The extension of the Newtonian paradigm. Newtonians and ''newtonianisms''. Lavoisier and the revolution in chemistry.

• The 19th century: The mechanistic view and its problems. Irreversibility in physics, geology, and natural sciences. Atoms in physics and chemistry. Biology, a new disciplinary area. Evolutionary theories, microscopy, microbiology, and Mendelian genetics.

• The development of field theories: from Faraday to Maxwell. Physics.

• Epistemology and society in the 20th century: the world of the very fast and the world of the very small. The physics of the ether and its problems. Einstein and the origins of the theory of special relativity. The new notions of space, time, and simultaneity and the predictions of the theory. The structure of the atom and the first quantum theories. Light and matter.

• From the macro universe to the micro universe in biological sciences. Molecular Biology, biotechnology, new languages, and potentials of biological and biomedical research.


Programs where the course is taught: