Courses in Science and Society at Columbia University

Columbia and Barnard have a constellation of faculty members located in a variety of departments and institutes whose research and interests lie at the intersection of science and the humanities. Among many specializations, include the historical development of scientific knowledge and in the processes—technical, social, political, intellectual, material and cultural—by which knowledge has been acquired, disseminated, and employed.

List of Courses: 2015 Fall Graduate

Archive for 2015 Fall Graduate

HIST W4983: Science and Empire from Baghdad to Byzantium | A. Roberts

Tuesdays 2:10 – 4:00 p.m.; 4 Points
This seminar explores the flourishing world of medieval science and scientists in the Byzantine and Islamic empires. Scholars read and wrote books on astronomy, medicine, alchemy, and other subjects in a variety of changing social and political contexts. What was the nature of the relationship between science and empire, between knowledge and power, in Byzantium and the medieval Islamic world? How did specialized knowledge and its bearers serve, subvert, and complicate imperial agendas? What was science understood to entail, and to what end? The course is designed for students interested in the history of science, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern empires, and/or the pre-modern world. It introduces students to medieval Greek and Arabic science and political contexts, from roughly the 7th to the 12th century. Readings from primary sources (in translation) and modern scholarship will be analyzed and discussed with respect to several interrelated themes, including: knowledge in the service of empire; communities of knowledge-producers (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and other); narratives of the history of science and their political significance; and taxonomies of the sciences.

SOSC P8773: Social History of American Public Health | D. Rosner

Mondays 8:30 – 11:20 a.m.; 3 Points
The role public health practice has played in American history during the 19th and 20th centuries. The social/biological environment and the creation of conditions for 19th- century epidemics of cholera, typhoid, yellow fever and other epidemic diseases. The changing urban and industrial infrastructure and their relationship to late 19th- and 20th-century concerns about tuberculosis, industrial illness and infection. Public health practice and campaigns. Social attitudes towards the industrial worker, the immigrant, and the urban environment. Boundaries between public health and medical practice and their shifting definitions. Changes in urban living and culture through the transformation of the industrial work place.
Link to Vergil

PSYC G4615: The Psychology of Culture and Diversity | V. Purdie-Vaughns

Tuesdays 2:10 – 4:00; 4 Points
Prerequisites: the instructor’s permission; some basic knowledge of social psychology is desirable.A comprehensive examination of how culture and diversity shape psychological processes. The class will explore psychological and political underpinnings of culture and diversity, emphasizing social psychological approaches. Topics include culture and self, cuture and social cognition, group and identity formation, science of diversity, stereotyping, prejudice, and gender. Applications to real-world phenomena discussed.
Link to Vergil

PHIL G4561: Probability and Decision Theory | H. Gaifman

Mondays 11:00 – 12:50; 3 Points

Examines interpretations and applications of the calculus of probability including applications as a measure of degree of belief, degree of confirmation, relative frequency, a theoretical property of systems, and other notions of objective probability or chance. Attention to epistimological questions such as Hume’s problem of induction, Goodman’s problem of projectibility, and the paradox of confirmation.

Link to Vergil

HIST W4147: A Botanical History of European Expansion, 1400-1850 | M. Morris

Mondays 12:10 – 2:00; 4 points
This course investigates the connection between plants and European empires from roughly 1450 to 1850. The search for spices and other Asian luxury goods compelled Europeans to cross the Atlantic. Instead, they stumbled upon continents that were new to them and held great riches of their own. They found both new plants, like tobacco and potatoes, and lands suitable for growing exotic Old World crops, like sugar and coffee. To capitalize on the riches these plants promised, empires imported slaves, destroyed civilizations, altered landscapes, and transformed cultures. Plants made the global world in which we live. In this seminar, you will meet a diverse cast of characters: monarchs who financed the search for new botanicals; seafarers and merchants who helped take them all over the world; unfree and indigenous laborers who grew them; and the everyday men, women, and children who consumed them. By considering how plants and their products were grown, bought, sold, used, and circulated, this course will provide cultural, economic, and environmental histories of European empires in the early modern era.

HSJR G8414: Communications, Knowledge, and Power since the Enlightenment: The United States and the World | R. John

Monday 3:10-5:00

HSEA G8884: Science and Technology in Late Imperial and Modern China | E. Lean

Monday 12:10 – 2:00

4 points.

The aim of this graduate course is to provide a broad introduction to science, medicine and technology in late imperial and modern China, and their relationship to the world. The course examines how the understanding and politics of technology, body, the natural world, and medicine undergo drastic reconfiguration from the late imperial period to the modern period. To understand this shift, we will consider questions of technology and imperialism, global circuits and knowledge transfer, the formulation of the modern episteme of “science,” the popularization and wonder of science, as well as commerce, politics and changing regimes of corporeality, in both the imperial and modern periods while placing close attention to the global context and transnational connections. In addition to getting a sense of the existing historiography on Chinese science, we will also be closely examining primary documents, pertinent theoretical writings, and comparative historiography. A central goal of the course is to explore different methodological approaches including history of science, translation studies, material culture, and global history. Reading ability in Classical Chinese and modern Chinese and facility in critical theory are all required.

HIST G8913: Methods in History of Science | D. Coen & M. Jones

Friday 10:10 – 12:00

4 points.

This graduate colloquium will introduce students to methods in the history of science. It covers the history of the history of science whil surveying current methodologies through key theoretical and critical works. Beginning with the identity and invention of science, it then moves on to examine major twentieth century methodological moments: from postivism and antipositivism, historical epistemology, actor-network theory and the sociology of knowledge to new views on artisanal knowledge and disciplinary allegiances. This is followed by a set of case studies–at both local and global levels–that examine such things as science as a particular form of knowledge, the question of science and interest, intellectual property, and the moral economy of science. No previous experience in the history of science or particular scientific knowledge is required.

HIST G8906: Craft and Science: Making Objects in the Early Modern World | P. Smith

M 10:10-2:00 | 4 Points
This course will study the materials, techniques, settings, and meanings of skilled craft and artistic practices in the early modern period (1350-1750), in order to reflect upon a series of issues, including craft knowledge and artisanal epistemology; the intersections between craft and science; and questions of historical methodology and evidence in the reconstruction of historical experience. The course will be run as a “Laboratory Seminar,” with discussions of primary and secondary materials, as well as hands-on work in a laboratory. This course is one component of the Making and Knowing Initiative of the Center for Science and Society. Thus, in its first years, this course contributes to the collective production of a critical edition of a late sixteenth-century manuscript, Ms. Fr. 640. Students are encouraged to take this course for both semesters (or more) but will only receive full credit once.
Link to Vergil


INAF U6236: History of American Ecology and Environment | S. Tjossem

Time TBA

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