NEDE: Newton, Darwin, Einstein (Summer 1999)
Center for Talented Youth: Johns Hopkins University

Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

Instructor: Dr. Robinson M. Yost
Teaching Assistant: John Duberstein


Studying the history of science through the careers and influence of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein clearly illustrates the persistent human desire to describe and explain the natural world. In addition, the historical approach to the "scientific" quests of Newton, Darwin, and Einstein imparts a deeper understanding of how different areas of science have drawn upon and contributed to many other areas of human achievement. Scientific theories have been influenced by society, and, in turn, have influenced societal views. Grappling with the history, the ideas, and the tremendous influence of Newton, Darwin, and Einstein are the primary goals of this course.

Course Information

Required Readings:
* Bowler, Peter J., Evolution: The History an Idea (2d. ed., 1989)
* Cassidy, David, Einstein and Our World (1995)
* Dobbs, Betty Jo Teeter & Margaret C. Jacob, Newton and the Culture of Newtonianism (1994)
* Jacob, James R., The Scientific Revolution: Aspirations and Ideas, 1500-1700 (1998)
* in-class handouts or specific internet sources

Website & E-mail:

Purposes of this course:
* Improving reading, writing, & speaking skills.
* Learning how scientific ideas develop in specific circumstances.
* Practicing analyzing & interpreting facts in historical context.
* Practicing thinking historically & asking thoughtful questions.

* Readings notebook
* Take-home essays
* In-class writings

Attendance & Breaks:
* attendance is required for all classes & evening study sessions
* 15 minute break each morning session

Individual & Group Participation:
* each student is expected to actively participate and contribute to general class discussions
* each student will also participate in small groups
* please be polite, use common courtesy with everyone in the class

Course Schedule (Subject to Change)

Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

1) Introduction [Monday, July 19]
* syllabus/quiz
* historical facts: evidence & interpretation
* reading historical sources/examples of historical context
* what is history?/what is science?

2) Background to Newton [Tuesday, July 20]
* Greco-Roman philosophy/Aristotle, Ptolemy, Galen
* medieval universities & translation/Scholasticism
* Renaissance humanism/A Scientific Revolution?
* Mechanical Philosophy: Mersenne, Gassendi, Descartes, and others
* Protestant Reformation/Cavaliers versus Roundheads

3) Newton's Natural Philosophy: Part I. [Wednesday, July 21]
* early life & education: Cambridge, geometry, & experiment
* theories of gravity: Hypotheses non fingo?
* theories of light: Hypotheses non fingo?
* two different traditions: Principia & Opticks
* Sir Isaac Newton: The Gravity of Genius [VIDEO]

4) Newton's Natural Philosophy: Part II. [Thursday, July 22]
* Never a deist: Newton's roles for the Divine
* Reaction to Newton's work: British & Continental
* popularization: Newton for the public
* deism, materialism, & atheism: Newton and religion

5) Newtonians & the Age of Reason [Friday, July 23]
* apotheosis of Sir Isaac Newton: Enlightenment ideals
* what's a "Newtonian"?: flavors of Newtonianism
* experimental philosophy & mathematical physics
* the triumph of "Newtonianism"?

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

6) Tradition & Change in the Enlightenment [Monday, July 26]
* Theories of the Earth's Origins & Argument from Design
* Classifying Living Things: Chain of Being & Linnaeus
* Water & Fire: Neptunism and Vulcanism
* Evolution in the Enlightenment: Erasmus Darwin & J.B. Lamarck

7) Changing Views of Man & Nature [Tuesday, July 27]
* Human Nature & Society: Laws to be discovered
* Adam Smith & Thomas Malthus: Laissez Faire Economics
* Geology (1800-1859): Charles Lyell
* Paley, Cuvier, & Chambers

8) Charles Darwin [Wednesday, July 28]
* early life & education
* Voyage of the Beagle: Galapagos Islands
* development of a theory: natural selection
* Alfred Russell Wallace & publication: Origin of Species
* Charles Darwin: Evolution's Voice [VIDEO]

9) Reception of Darwinism [Thursday, July 29]
* promoting evolution: T. H. Huxley, Asa Gray
* objections to natural selection
* Purpose & Progress in Nature: Theistic Evolution
* Religious & Moral Problems

10) Darwinism Applied: Used, Misused, & Abused [Friday, July 30]
* "Social Darwinism": Society & Imperialism
* Herbert Spencer: Survival of the Fittest
* Eugenics: Selective Breeding for Humanity
* "Darwinism": the broader impact?

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

11) Nineteenth-Century Physics [Monday, August 2]
* Theories of Light & Electro-magnetism
* Theories of Energy & Thermodynamics
* Turn-of-the-Century Physics: Ether & Energy
* Michelson-Morley Experiment: Where's the Ether?

12) Albert Einstein [Tuesday, August 3]
* youth & education
* 1905: annus mirabilis (the "marvelous year")
* the special theory of relativity: riding a beam of light?
* photoelectric effect: packets of light?
* NOVA: Einstein Revealed: Part One [VIDEO]

13) Einstein's Age [Wednesday, August 4]
* World War I & Uncertainty * Quantum Theory & Uncertainty
* Desperate times, simple answers: Nationalism & Antisemitism
* 1915: general theory of relativity
* NOVA: Einstein Revealed: Part Two [VIDEO]

14) Einstein's Impact [Thursday, August 5]
* Impact on Physics: Relativity
* Impact on Physics: The Quantum
* Popular Reception of Relativity
* Cultural Resonances: Philosophy, Visual Art, Literature

15) Class Conclusion [Friday, August 6]
* wrapping up: final discussion
* significance of Newton, Darwin, Einstein
* importance of science?
* importance of history?