This seminar is part of the “astronomy theme semester” offerings in LS&A during the Winter term. A central figure for the semester is Galileo: his discoveries, his contribution to the Scientific Revolution, the persecution he endured, and his legacy both in science and the wider culture for the past four hundred years. In this seminar we will look at Galileo’s career and we will actually consider some of his investigations, especially the astronomical ones. Then we will turn to later “Galileian moments” in the history of science and society, such as debates over evolution (both in the universe and on earth), the relationship between science and religion, men and women in science, and the nature of scientific advance, using examples from a variety of fields.
This is a history and not a science course: the sole prerequisite is intellectual curiosity. Our concerns lie with the human aspects of science and the relationships of those aspects with politics, religion, society, and culture.
We will read original sources, usually by the scientists or their critics, and we will also look at a number of media presentations of the evidence and the disputes themselves.
Students will take part in class discussions and also prepare an project on a “Galileian moment” chosen with the approval of the instructor.