HPSC1045 Introduction to the History of Science

Reading List
  • Taught: Semester 1
  • Credits: 10
  • Class Size: 150
  • Module Manager: Dr Adrian Wilson
  • Email: a.f.wilson@leeds.ac.uk
  • This Module is approved as a Discovery Module
  • This module replaces HPSC1040

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

Module Summary

The modern world is dominated by science and technology, yet for much of human history it would have made little sense to speak of science as separate from philosophy. Even today, scientific thought is intimately connected with fundamental philosophical questions concerning metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of science. This module introduces you to the history of science, exploring its many connections with the history of philosophy, the philosophy of science, and with the fundamental questions of philosophy.
The questions to be addressed will typically include:

  • - How have people come to hold particular beliefs about the natural world?
  • - In what ways have what we now think of as 'science' and 'philosophy' been combined through the ages?
  • - How have major metaphysical themes, such as the nature of matter or the existence of God, been developed in relation to scientific


  • - To what extent have political notions derived from changing scientific theories?
  • - What do historical case studies tell us about the validity or otherwise of philosophical accounts of scientific reasoning?

Throughout the module, we will be exploring lively historical case studies that reveal the philosophical ramifications that have made the sciences relevant to all aspects of modern life and culture. However, no prior knowledge of modern science is necessary or assumed. Rather, this module provides an opportunity to explore the wider philosophical and cultural significance of the sciences in history.


On completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • 1. To develop students' knowledge of the history of scientific thought and its relation to philosophy.
  • 2. To cultivate students' capacities to critically evaluate claims about the history of science.
  • 3. To nurture students' self-critical skills in handling evidence in relation to the history of science.


This module examines the history of scientific thought and its bearing on broader philosophical issues. It will typically focus on a set of themed case studies, on an extended historical case study (e.g. the Darwinian revolution), or on a single historical period (e.g. the scientific revolution).

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • 1. Understand some of the main themes in the history of scientific thought and their philosophical bearings.
  • 2. Critically assess key historical claims about the development of scientific thought.
  • 3. Use evidence from historical case studies in critical discussion.

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching


Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
Essay 1500 words 50
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 50


Exam type Exam duration % of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc) 1 hr 0 mins 50
Total Percentage (Assesment Exams) 50

Private Study

Reading over and supplementing lecture notes: 11 x 1 hour =11 hours
Required reading and preparing for/writing up tutorials: 5 x 5 hours = 25 hours
Reading for and writing essay: 1 x 24 hours = 24 hours
Revising for examination and practicing past papers: 1 x 24 hours = 24 hours

Progress Monitoring

Mid-term essay will be marked and returned with written feedback within three weeks.

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Lecture 11 1 11
Tutorial 5 1 5
Private Study Hours 84
Total Contact Hours 16
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 100

Reading List

Reading List
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