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MSc History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Major Themes in HSTM

Unit code HSTM60511
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

This course provides a broad overview of the histories of science, technology and medicine from the medieval period to the late twentieth century. The course is framed around historical case studies such as the origins of the medical profession, the development of Newtonianism, the formation of civic universities and the role of science in the Cold War. Through these cases, students are introduced to major historiographic themes in the field, including the retreat from whiggism, attempts to retain “big picture” historical accounts, and the value of focusing on audiences and spaces. We emphasise particularly the importance of public science, and engagement between “expert” and “non-expert” groups, in a variety of historical periods.

As this is a team-taught course drawing on staff research interests, the exact content will vary. However, it will generally include the following:

The “Scientific Revolution” and the status of natural philosophy

  • Early-modern medical science and practice
  • Newton, Newtonians, Newtonianism
  • Enlightenment and civil society
  • Manchester and industrial shock
  • Public science in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • Universities and institutionalised research
  • Medicine, science and Empire
  • Science and welfare
  • Political ideology, planning, and visions of the future
  • Science and the Cold War
  • Science in the media
  • Information science and management

 

30 credits

Pre/co-requisites

HSTM60571 Research and communication skills, plus:

For students on MSc History of Science, Technology and Medicine, HSTM60651 Theory and practice in HSTM and medical humanities

For students on MSc Science Communication, HSTM60561 Introduction to science communication

Aims

The unit aims to:

  • introduce key themes for understanding the development and institutions of science, technology and medicine (STM) from the early-modern period to the late twentieth century
  • provide an integrated survey of theoretical and historiographic approaches to understanding modern STM
  • introduce students to the chronology and periodization of the history of STM
  • use case studies to exemplify the interdisciplinary nature of the field
  • place the study of contemporary science communication in historical context
  • stimulate students to develop critical and informed judgments on the development of modern scientific, technological and medical knowledge.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, successful students will be able to:

  • describe and analyse the main periods in the history of science, technology and medicine, 1500-2000
  • understand and compare different historiographic approaches via specific case studies
  • construct and defend an argument according to the norms of scholarly historical research
  • contribute to group discussion
  • read, summarise and critically examine source texts, and present findings orally in a group setting
  • conduct independent research on secondary (and in some cases primary) historical sources
  • clearly present an argument in essay form using appropriate source documentation
  • read for research, including skim-reading, source prioritisation and following up references
  • critically and comparatively appraise source texts
  • give an oral presentation examining a source text, and respond to questions or comments from others

Syllabus

This course provides a broad overview of the histories of science, technology and medicine from the medieval period to the late twentieth century. The course is framed around historical case studies such as the origins of the medical profession, the development of Newtonianism, the formation of civic universities and the role of science in the Cold War. Through these cases, students are introduced to major historiographic themes in the field, including the retreat from whiggism, attempts to retain “big picture” historical accounts, and the value of focusing on audiences and spaces. We emphasise particularly the importance of public science, and engagement between “expert” and “non-expert” groups, in a variety of historical periods.

As this is a team-taught course drawing on staff research interests, the exact content will vary. However, it will generally include the following:

The “Scientific Revolution” and the status of natural philosophy

  • Early-modern medical science and practice
  • Newton, Newtonians, Newtonianism
  • Enlightenment and civil society
  • Manchester and industrial shock
  • Public science in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • Universities and institutionalised research
  • Medicine, science and Empire
  • Science and welfare
  • Political ideology, planning, and visions of the future
  • Science and the Cold War
  • Science in the media
  • Information science and management

 

Teaching and learning methods

Half the contact time is assigned as broadly lecture-format, including some group discussion and occasional short video presentations. The remainder consists of group seminar discussion based on assigned readings. In a typical week, two or three students are each assigned (by rota) a written source on which to prepare a short presentation in advance. At the class, the students’ presentations, delivered using paper handouts or Powerpoint, lead into broad group discussion on questions raised by the sources. All students are required to read all the sources in advance, whether presenting or not. Required and recommended readings are also assigned for all lectures.

Readings and other support materials are delivered via Blackboard, which is also used for essay upload. Students are encouraged to raise questions about the course in class or via email, and the group email list is sometimes used to continue general discussion on course themes.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
All historical writing involves analysis.
Innovation/creativity
All historical writing involves a creative element.
Oral communication
All students are required on a rota basis to present their responses to the readings discussed to the class.
Problem solving
All historical writing involves problem-solving.
Research
The course provides content and methodological grounding for independent research work later in the programme.
Written communication
This unit provides experience in humanities-style academic writing, with feedback tailored to students who may have limited experience in this area.

Assessment methods

Assessment tasks

3 essays, of which the highest scoring 2 count for credit (50% each) - 3 x 2000 words - 2 x 50% weighting

Feedback methods

The seminar discussion format of the course gives all students regular opportunities to discuss their ideas with teaching staff. Staff are also available to discuss essay proposals, seminar performance, and general course performance by appointment, on a one-to-one basis. All coursework is double-marked, and essay scripts are returned to the students with both sets of markers’ comments. Examiners’ notes on exam scripts are not normally released, but may be viewed on request.

Recommended reading

A comprehensive reading list is distributed at the beginning of the course. Useful introductory reading includes:

•      Peter J Bowler and Iwan Rhys Morus, Making Modern Science: a historical survey. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2005.

•      Patricia Fara, Science: a four thousand year history. Oxford: OUP 2009.

•      John Pickstone, Ways of Knowing: a new history of science, technology and medicine. Manchester: Manchester University Press 2000.

•      William Bynum, The History of Medicine: a Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

•      Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity. London: Fontana 1999.

•      Thomas J Misa, Leonardo to the Internet: Technology and Culture from the Renaissance to the Present. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

•      Bernard Lightman and Aileen Fyfe, Science in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century Sites and Experiences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. 

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
James Sumner Unit coordinator

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