COOL CLASSES: “Inventing Modern Science”

COOL CLASSES: “Inventing Modern Science”

Class name: “Inventing Modern Science”

Taught by: Associate Professor of History Darin Hayton


Here’s what he had to say about his class:

This course examines the period we glibly associate with the birth of modern science, that period sometime between the publication of Copernicus’s De revolutionibus (1543) and the publication of Newton’s Principia mathematica (1687). We even call it the “Scientific Revolution.” But rather than see this period as the unproblematic development of modern scientific practice, we seek to understand how and why certain people began to investigate the natural world in new ways, and how they convinced other people that their new ways were better. We also spend considerable time looking at how and why modern scholars, both historians and scientists, have identified this period as special.

I hope students will come to see the period as one of incredible change in how Western Europeans looked at the world, and why. But I also want them to see that such change was neither inevitable nor universal. And it wasn’t as clean and progressive as we often think. I want them to be able to see how we, modern scholars, have elevated the period to one of specialness because doing so serves our goals and ideals.

Because we tend to enlist the period uncritically, without knowing either what happened during the time or how the simplified version of it reinforces our assumptions about our exceptionalism, I, instead, wanted students to have a chance to see what the historical actors were trying to do, what intellectual and rhetorical tools they deployed, and the political, religious, and social commitments undergirded their efforts.


See what other courses the Department of History is offering.

Photo by Holden Blanco ’17.

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.

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