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LibraryThing: Newton Week 15: Newton


Congratulations! We have nearly reached the end of our semester-long time travel tour of the history of science. This last week we reach the final stop on our time-travel tour: a brief introductory glimpse of Isaac Newton.

Newton assignments


Due Date*
Activity Time
1.1 Tuesday 8/26
11:59 p.m.*

1. Starting Assumptions
Think about what you know already about the culture and period, share your knowledge and experience with other students in the class

30 min.
1.2 Wednesday 8/27
11:59 p.m.*

2. Topic 1: Newton's Works + Quiz
Background: Without a sense of context, history is anachronistic.
Primary sources: Without documentary evidence, history is speculation
The first of two topic assignments per week involving both background and primary sources.

90 min.
1.3 Thursday 8/28
11:59 p.m.*

3. Topic 2: Janus Faces + Quiz
Background: Without a sense of context, history is anachronistic.
Primary sources: Without documentary evidence, history is speculation

The second of two topic assignments per week involving both background and primary sources.

90 min.
1.4 Friday 8/29
11:59 p.m.*
20 4. Interpretation
Unless it explains, history is trivial.
Write a short persuasive essay agreeing or disagreeing with a common interpretation about the topic and expressing your own view
60 min.
1.5 Monday
11:59 p.m.
10 5. Online Resource Project
Over the course of the semester, we will assemble a catalog of online resources for exploring the history of science.
60 min.
1.6 Monday 8/31
11:59 p.m.*

6. Reflection + Peer Responses
Think about all that you did this week, including reading the Interpretation Essays of other students, and share your thoughts and ideas with other students in the class

30 min.
 Total pts
Total time
6 hours


Want more? Consider enrolling in the sequel to this course, HSCI 3023 History of Science, Newton to the Present, which examines Newton in more depth! Like this course, HSCI 3023 is taught every semester and counts for General Education credit. Go here for next semester's course listings.

In all periods surveyed in this first (HSCI 3013) introductory survey course, you have studied the natural knowledge of different cultures as it took forms quite different than science does today. Even with Newton, his "natural philosophy" reflects how scientific disciplines were closely inter-related instead of separated into their modern fields. In addition, the case of Newton illustrates how religious beliefs provided the very fabric of the culture. Secularization, or the relegation of religious discourse to the private sphere, out of the public square and of little relevance to science, was nearly inconceivable.

In the 18th century, the modern scientific disciplines emerged with something like their modern disciplinary boundaries, and scientific societies began to have a stronger influence upon society. Also in the 18th century, women began to play a more prominent role in both the production and dissemination of science.

In the 19th century, the sciences became professionalized, in the sense that one could earn a living as a scientist outside of courts and universities, instead of relying upon an independent source of wealth for science as a leisure pursuit. The late 19th century perhaps represents the high point of social respect for the authority of science, before the wars of the 20th century demonstrated that scientific and technological power is not always unequivocally beneficial to humanity.

Also in the 20th century, science became practiced on a scale not easily imagined before the term "Big Science" was coined to refer to the organized work of physicists during World War II.

These and many other developments are surveyed in HSCI 3023, so if you want to hear the rest of the story, consider enrolling in the sequel!

Since we have also merely scratched the surface in a superficial way each week in this course, you might be interested in some of the many courses available from the History of Science Department devoted to specialized topics in the history of science, some of which we have briefly noted this semester. Check out course descriptions (or the History of Science minor) at the History of Science Department website.

And please keep in touch in the future!


"The more I have understood Newton, the more he has receded from me." Richard S. Westfall, introduction to Never at Rest, the standard biography of Newton.

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HSCI 3013. History of Science to 17th centuryCreative Commons license
Kerry Magruder, Instructor, 2004
Brent Purkaple, TA

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Many thanks to the pedagogical model developed in Mythology and Folklore and other online courses by Laura Gibbs, which have been an inspiration for this course.

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This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux