HSTR 207: Science and Technology in World History

Science and technology are powerful forces in the modern world.  They are culture-bearing and fully intertwined with other societal forces such as religion, politics, and economics. The aim of the course is to understand how using a humanistic approach to analyze science and technology can help solve some of the most pressing problems in our world. The first part of the course will focus on methodologies: how does the field of the humanities approach issues in science and technology?  The second part of the course will explore specific case studies by placing scientific and technological developments within their historical and cultural contexts. You will learn a base of knowledge that will enable you to critically analyze science and technology, and enter, with an informed judgment, into the fascinating debate taking place today concerning their increasing role in our society.

American engineers inspect the Earth Resources Technology Satellite, more commonly known as Landsat I. Launched in 1972, the device allowed the United States to map mineral deposits from space, circumventing sovereignty issues that arose during Third World postcolonial independence movements. These satellites advanced remote sensing technologies. Image from NASA.
Indian textile makers work at a cotton loom, circa early 19th century. Old World cottons like those cultivate in India were replaced over time by those varieties from the New World because the spinning jenny and power loom performed far better with longer fibers. Biological innovation in the Americas thus preceded technological innovation in Britain. Image from Edward Baines, History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain (1835).
An artistic rendition of Eunice Newton Foote (1819-1888) drafting a paper titled “Circumstances affecting the heat of the Sun’s rays,” which demonstrated that gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide heated up the Earth’s atmosphere. Although a prominent suffragist in the women’s rights movement, Foote was prohibited on the basis of sex from reading her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in 1856. Image by Carlyn Iverson, NOAA.

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