History of World Science to 1650

Spring 2011
History 322C (Unique 39525)
MW 3:30-5:00 PM, WAG 201

Professor: Roger Hart
Office: GAR 3.216
Office hours: Tuesdays and Wednesdays 1:30–3:00 p.m., and by appt.
Office phone: (512) 475–7258
E-mail: rhart@mail.utexas.edu

Note: Please bookmark this syllabus—I will be revising it and making adjustments to the readings as the course progresses.

Course Description

This course presents a cultural history of science (broadly defined) from ancient times to the seventeenth century. We will focus on reading primary sources (in translation) and understanding these texts in their cultural context. We will read selections from texts on astronomy, biology, chemistry and alchemy, cosmology, mathematics, medicine, and physics, from ancient times to the Scientific Revolution, from China, Greece, Islam, and early modern Europe. Readings will include works by Aristotle, Galen, Euclid, Ptolemy, Liu Hui, Al-Tusi, Avicenna, Paracelsus, Galileo, and Xu Guangqi. These readings will be supplemented with recent secondary historical research. We will take an interdisciplinary and critical approach, integrating history with philosophy, literary studies, and anthropology.

Course Requirements

Class attendance is mandatory. The grade will be based on in-class quizzes and class participation (30%), mid-term and final examinations (30%), and a final paper of 8–10 pages (40%).

For resources for help with writing, see the web page of the Undergraduate Writing Center. For suggestions on writing the final paper, see “Writing Term Papers.”


Required Readings

All required readings will be available through ERes (electronic reserves):


This page is password-protected. The password will be announced in class; please email me if you need help.

Background Readings

James E. McClellan and Harold Dorn, Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction, 2nd ed., Johns Hopkins University Press (2006).

Optional Readings

The optional secondary sources listed below can be found in PCL.


Unit 1: Early China

Week 1 (Jan. 20): Science, Technology, and Medicine in the Shang Dynasty

Primary sources (required)

“The Oracle Bone Inscriptions of the Late Shang Dynasty,” chap. 1 of Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 1, From Earliest Times to 1600, ed. William Theodore de Bary et al., 2nd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), pp. 3–23.

Secondary sources (optional)

David N. Keightley, Sources of Shang History: The Oracle-Bone Inscriptions of Bronze Age China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978).

Week 2 (Jan. 24 and 26): Medicine

Primary sources (required)

Inner Classic of the Yellow Lord (Huang di nei jing su wen), selections. Trans. in Ilza Veith, Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen: The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).

Secondary sources (optional)

Paul U. Unschuld, Medicine in China: A History of Ideas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

Paul U. Unschuld, Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).

Week 3 (Jan. 31 and Feb. 2): Astronomy

Primary sources (required)

Computational Classic of the Gnomon of Zhou (Zhou bi suan jing), selections. Trans. in Christopher Cullen, Astronomy and Mathematics in Ancient China: The Zhou bi suan jing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Secondary sources (optional)

Cullen, Astronomy and Mathematics in Ancient China.

Week 4 (Feb. 7 and 9): Mathematics

Primary sources (required)

Nine Chapters of Mathematical Methods (Jiu zhang suan shu, preface to commentary dated 263 CE), selections. Trans. in Shen Kangshen, Anthony W. C. Lun and John N. Crossley, The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art: Companion and Commentary (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 52–58 (preface), 399–402 (problem 1 of chapter 8), and 413–415 (problem 13 of chapter 8).

Secondary sources (optional)

Liu Hui,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. Charles Gillispie, Vol. 8 (New York: Cengage Learning, 2008), pp. 418-425. 27 vols.

Li Yan and Du Shiran, Chinese Mathematics: A Concise History, trans. John N. Crossley and Anthony W. C. Lun (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987).

Karine Chemla and Guo Shuchun, Les neuf chapitres: Le Classique mathématique de la Chine ancienne et ses commentaires (Paris: Dunod 2004), in French.

Roger Hart, The Chinese Roots of Linear Algebra (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2010). See also Chinese Roots of Linear Algebra Digital History Website (http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rhart/algebra/), a digital history website to demonstrate the solutions to linear algebra problems in imperial China (note: this website is currently in its preliminary stages of development).

Unit 2: Early Greece

Week 5 (Feb. 14 and 16): Aristotle

Primary sources (required)

Aristotle, On the Heavens and History of Animals, selections. Trans. W.K.C. Guthrie, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1986).

Secondary sources (optional)

Aristotle,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 1, pp. 250-258.

Sir G.E.R. Lloyd, Early Greek Science: Thales to Aristotle, ed. M. I. Finley, Ancient Culture and Society (London: Chatto and Windus, 1970).

Week 6 (Feb. 21 and 23): Mathematics

Primary sources (required)

Euclid, Elements, selections. Trans. in Sir Thomas L. Heath, The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements, 2d ed., rev. with add. ed., 3 vols. (New York: Dover, 1956).

Secondary sources (optional)

Euclid,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 4, pp. 414-437.

Sir Thomas L. Heath, A History of Greek Mathematics (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1921).

Week 7 (Feb. 28 and March 2): Astronomy

Primary sources (required)

Ptolemy, Almagest, selections. Trans. in G.J. Toomer, Ptolemy’s Almagest (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1984).

Secondary sources (optional)

Ptolemy,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 11, pp. 186-206.

Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957).

Toomer, Ptolemy’s Almagest.

Outline due Monday, Feb. 28 (statement of your proposed thesis statement and supporting arguments, no more than half a page).

Week 8 (March 7 and 9): Medicine

Primary sources (required)

Galen, On the Natural Faculties, Book One. Trans. in Arthur John Brock, Galen On the Natural Faculties (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1916).

Secondary sources (optional)

Galen,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 5, pp. 227-233.

Lawrence Conrad, et al., The Western Medical Tradition, 800 BC to 1800 AD (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Corrected outlines returned Monday, March 7.

Midterm Examination on Wednesday, March 9 (in class). Please note that make-up examinations will be given only for documented emergencies. The review session for the midterm examination will be Tuesday, March 8, from 8:30 to 10:30 PM, in GAR 0.132.

Spring Break, March 14–19.

Unit 3: Islamic Sciences

Week 9 (March 21 and 23): Mathematics and Astronomy

Primary sources (required)

Nasir Al-Din al-Tusi (1201–1274), Memoir on astronomy, selections. Trans. in F.J. Ragep, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi’s Memoir on astronomy = al-tadhkira fi ‘ilm al-hay’a, Sources in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1993).

Secondary sources (optional)

Al-Ṭūsī, Muḥammad Ibn Muḥammad Ibn Al-Ḥasan Usually Known as Naṣir Al-Dīn,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 13, pp. 508-514.

J. L. Berggren, Episodes in the Mathematics of Medieval Islam (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1986).

Writing sample due Monday, March 21 (the first paragraph of your paper).

Week 10 (March 28 and 30): Medicine

Primary sources (required)

Ali ibn Ridwan, (b. El Gīzah, Egypt, A.D. 998; d. Cairo, Egypt. A.D, 1061 or 1069), On the Prevention of Bodily Ills in Egypt, selections. Trans. in Michael W. Dols, Medieval Islamic Medicine: Ibn Ridwan’s Treatise, “On the Prevention of Bodily Ills in Egypt” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

Secondary sources (optional)

Ibn Riḍwān, Abū’L-Ḥasan ‘Alī Ibn ‘Alī Ibn Ja‘Afar Al-Miṣrī,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 11, pp. 444-445.

Dols, Medieval Islamic Medicine.

Emilie Savage Smith, “Islamic Culture and the Medical Arts” [online]

Corrected writing samples returned Wednesday, March 30.

Unit 4: Early Modern Europe

Week 11 (April 4 and 6): Astronomy

Primary sources (required)

Nicholas Copernicus (b. Toru, Poland, 19 February 1473; d. Frauenburg [Frombork], Poland, 24 May 1543), On the Revolutions, selections.

Galileo Galilei (b. Pisa, Italy, 15 February 1564; d. Arcetri, Italy, 8 January 1642), “The Starry Messenger.” Trans. in Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (New York: Anchor Books, 1957).

Secondary sources (optional)

 “Copernicus, Nicholas." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 3, pp. 401-411.

André Goddu, “Copernicus, Nicholas,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 20, pp. 176-182.

Galilei, Galileo." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 5, pp. 237-249.

Michele Camerota, “Galilei, Galileo,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 21, pp. 96-103.

N. M. Swerdlow and O. Neugebauer, Mathematical Astronomy in Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus, vol. 10, Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1984).

Mario Biagioli, Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

Week 12 (April 11 and 13): Astronomy (cont.)

Primary sources (required)

Galileo, “The Assayer.” Trans. in Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo.

Johannes Kepler (b. Weil der Stadt, Germany, 27 December 1571; d. Regensburg, Germany, 15 November 1630), Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, selections.

Secondary sources (optional)

Kepler, Johannes,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 7, pp. 289-312.

James R. Voelkel, “Kepler, Johannes,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 22, pp. 105-109.

Bruce Stephenson, The Music of the Heavens: Kepler’s Harmonic Astronomy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994).

———. Kepler’s Physical Astronomy, vol. 13, Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences (New York: Springer, 1987).

Term papers due Monday, April 11.

Week 13 (April 18 and 20): Alchemy

Primary sources (required)

Paracelsus, selections. Trans. in Four Treatises of the Ophrastus von Hohenheim, Called Paracelsus, ed. Henry E. Sigerist et al. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1941).

Secondary sources (optional)

Paracelsus, Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 10, pp. 304-313.

Daniel, Dane T., “Paracelsus, Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 24, pp. 14–17.

Allen G. Debus, The Chemical Philosophy: Paracelsian Science and Medicine in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (New York: Science History Publications, 1977).

Corrected term papers returned Monday, April 18.

Week 14 (April 25 and 27): Philosophy and Methodology

Primary sources (required)

René Descartes (b. La Haye, Touraine, France, 31 March 1596; d. Stockholm, Sweden, 11 February 1650), “Rules for the Direction of the Mind” and “The World or Treatise on Light,” selections. In The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, Dugald Murdoch, 3 vols. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984).

Secondary sources (optional)

Descartes, René Du perron,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 4, pp. 51-55.

Garber, Daniel, “Descartes, Rene Du Perron,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 20, pp. 272–276.

Unit 5: Seventeenth-Century China

Week 15 (May 2 and 4): Western Learning in China

Primary sources (required)

Matteo Ricci, Introduction and chap. 1, “A Discussion on the Creation of Heaven, Earth, and All Things by the Lord of Heaven, and on the Way He Exercises Authority and Sustains Them,” in The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, pp. 57–97 (English translation is on odd-numbered pages). Li Zhizao (d. 1630), Preface to The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven; Xu Guangqi (1562–1633), “Memorial in Defense of Western Teaching”; Yang Guangxian (1597–1669), “I Cannot Do Otherwise.” In Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 2, pp. 142–152.

Secondary sources (optional)

Roger Hart, “Xu Guangqi, Memorialist,” ms.

Ricci, Matteo,” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 11, pp. 402-403.

Xu Guangqi,” Encyclopedia of World Biography vol. 16, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Gale, 2004), pp. 422-25.

Final revised term papers due Wednesday, May 4 in class. This is the final date to turn in a rewritten paper.

Final Examination on Wednesday, May 4 (in class); please note that make-up examinations will be given only for documented emergencies.

Academic Integrity

Policies on academic integrity are posted on the following webpage:



Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 471-6259.