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History of Science Course Syllabus - Flat Earth woodcut

History of Science Online

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LibraryThing: OU History of Science Collections HSCI 3013 - section 995 - Spring 2014

Timeline: Some Important Dates to Remember

| How to get a Date |

For this history course you will not need to memorize dates. Far more important than actual dates are relative sequences, such as Socrates taught Plato who taught Aristotle who taught Alexander... not vice-versa. However, to develop a general perspective of the temporal sequencing of events, it is very handy to familiarize yourself with several well-chosen landmark dates or ranges of dates. A few such dates can serve as a helpful frame of reference and anchor the relative sequences at some point. In this course, which covers the history of science from antiquity through the early modern period, we shall adopt the following dates as an arbitrary frame of reference. Familiarize yourself with them by referring to this page often (using the Timeline link, above), and take heart that no dates need be memorized. Approximate dates are represented by circa or ca., which means “around.”

The Three Periods covered in HSCI 3013: Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern



before 529 A.D.

3rd millennium BC
Egyptian Pyramids
Mesopotamian city-states
3000-2000 BC
2nd millennium BC
Babylonian astronomy: Venus tablets, Mul Apin
2000-1000 BC
Hellenic (early Greek): Presocratics through Aristotle
6th & 5th centuries: Presocratic philosophers
(Thales, Pythagoras, Empedokles, et al.)
600-401 BC
4th century BC:
Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander, Kidinnu
400-301 BC
Hellenistic (later Greek):
Greek science after Alexander
death of Alexander the Great
323 BC
death of Aristotle
322 BC
150 BC
(science in the Latin west)
Cicero, Lucretius, Ovid, Seneca, Pliny 100 BC - 100 AD
Galen and Ptolemy
150 AD
Justinian closed the Academy at Athens
529 AD*

“Middle Ages” or

529–ca. 1400 A.D.

Early Middle Ages
Benedict founded monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy
529 AD*

Abbasid dynasty, Baghdad
Umayyad dynasty, Cordoba, Spain (Ibn Rushd)
Fatimid dynasty, Cairo, Egypt

Celtic scholarship (Book of Kells ca. 800)
Carolingian reforms
12th century Renaissance
Founding of cathedral schools, and Universities of Bologna, Paris, Oxford
High Middle Ages
Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, al-Tusi
Nicole Oresme, Jean Buridan, William Ockham
Early Modern
15th century
"Quattrocento," Renaissance
Fall of Constantinople, capital of Byzantine empire, to Turks (westward influx of Greeks)
Gutenberg printed Bible with movable type
ca. 1454
16th century
Luther's 95 theses

Copernicus, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
Vesalius, On the Fabric of the Human Body

17th century
"Scientific Revolution"
Death of Galileo, birth of Newton
Newton, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
(covered in
HSCI 3023)
18th century

origin of modern scientific disciplines

19th century
professionalization of science
Darwin, Origin of Species
20th century
Big science, big technology

* The sixth century A.D. may be taken as the end of antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages. The year 529 A.D. is chosen arbitrarily, but it does have symbolic value representing both the end of ancient learning (Justinian closed the Academy at Athens) and the beginning of medieval culture (Benedict founded his monastery at Monte Casino in Italy).

** Since the lives of Galileo and Newton together span what is often called the “Scientific Revolution,” 1642 is a convenient symbol, though strictly speaking a problematic date. At that time England and continental Europe used different calendars, ten days out of phase. On the continent—where Galileo died on 9 January 1642—Newton’s birth would have been reckoned as 4 January 1643, though by England’s calendar he was born on Christmas day, 1642. Thus the symbolic date holds only by the conflation of two unsynchronized calendars!


"We are puny dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants." Bernard of Chartres, 12th century

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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