History of science (i) (2018/2019)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Luca Ciancio
Luca Ciancio
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Other available courses
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. 2A dal Feb 18, 2019 al Mar 30, 2019.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

This course intends to explore the impact of modern science on traditional views of the cosmos and on ideas about man's place in nature. It also aims at showing to what extent scientific culture was linked both to social and material setting in which scientists worked. For Philosophy, Literature and Art History students this course is an opportunity to explore the manifold connections between their disciplinary interests and the rise of modern science.

1. The protagonists of the Scientific Revolution (SR): ideas and practices
2. The main conceptual novelties in physical sciences and biological sciences between 16th and early 18th century.
3. The intellectual, social and material environment in which the SR took place.

1. To be able to present and to explain coherently some relevant conceptual landscapes of the past
2. To identify the links between theoretical options and interests (political, economic) at stake.
3. To acquire a deeper sensitivity toward the nature of scientific culture as a tool indispensable to solve the collective challenges that humanity is facing.


The course focuses on the rise of scientific culture in Europe from the Renaissance to the early Eighteenth century. Particular attention will be devoted to revolutionary ideas in astronomy, physics, natural history and medicine.

1. Contents, aims and methodology
2. Historiography of science today
3. Scientific change: Kuhn and the post-positivistic epistemology
4. The Quattrocento: the rise of natural knowledge
5-6. Leonardo: the method, the body, the Earth
7-8. The cosmos of the ancients
9-10. The revolution of Copernicus
11. Reactions to Copernicus
12. Tycho Brahe
13. Johannes Kepler
14-19. Galileo; nature, science and power
20. Medicine in the Renaissance
21. Early modern anatomy: Andrea Vesalius
22. William Harvey
23. Hermeticism and the sciences
24. Natural history in the Renaissance
25-28. Descartes' mechanical cosmos
29. Scientific academies: Italy, Great Britain, France
30-36. Isaac Newton

The first part of the lecture is devoted to illustrating a specific topic of the programme using slide to read sources, relevant images and historical documents. In the second part the Professor will answer questions and debate with students the most interesting issues emerging from the ideas and events previously introduced.

Apart form the mandatory textbook (one book only among the two suggested), students not partecipating in the lectures must follow the suggestions given in “Lessico corso (i) 18-19”, a PDF file downloadable from the e-learning platform.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Clericuzio, Antonio La macchina del mondo Carocci 2006 Questo testo, indicato in alternativa a quello di Maiocchi, è più adatto agli studenti di filosofia e di lettere.
Maiocchi R. Storia della scienza in Occidente, La Nuova Italia 2000 Questo testo è indicato in alternativa a quello di Clericuzio perché più tradizionale e meno dispersivo. Si studino le seguenti sezioni (nell'impaginazione dell'edizione 2000): pp. 79-89 (fisica di Aristotele), 128-135 (Tolomeo e Galeno), 191-368 (Parte IV, V, VI), 543-49 (Conclusioni). Quest’ultimo testo non è più in commercio e va dunque fotocopiato oppure preso a prestito.

Assessment methods and criteria

During the traditional oral interview the Professor will ask the student to discuss two or more topics of the programme. He will assess the quality of the acquired information, the logic of the argumentation, the originality and autonomy of thought reached by the student.
International students are kindly requested to get in contact with the Professor as soon as possible.