Astronomy in World History

Subject HPSC20015 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

February, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 01-Feb-2016 to 16-Feb-2016
Assessment Period End 07-Mar-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 04-Feb-2016
Census Date 12-Feb-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 26-Feb-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 32 hours - 2 x 1 hour lectures and one 1 x 1 hour tutorial per day over the 2 week teaching period. An additional 2 hours of observation classes during the first week (to be arranged at the beginning of the subject).
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Gerhard Wiesenfeldt



Subject Overview:

In many cultures the study of celestial phenomena has taken a central role in the attempts to understand the world they lived in. The apparent regularity of sun, moon and stars enabled observers to formulate rules for the behaviour of celestial bodies and derive predictions from these rules. The subject will study how astronomical knowledge has developed throughout the world. It combines simple astronomical observations with classes discussing the historical development of astronomy in different cultures ranging from East Asia via the Middle East and Europe to Central America and Australia.

Central questions will be: How were the same phenomena interpreted in different cultures? How were astronomical observations done? What political and religious functions did astronomy have? How was astronomical knowledge transmitted between different cultures? Why did early modern Europe become the place that developed the idea of modern science and how did other civilisations react to the astronomical developments in Europe? The subject will thus give an overview of the origins of our modern world view while offering reflections on cross-cultural studies of science.

Note: For students who need to graduate it is possible to finalise the result for this subject before the end of February 2016

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • possess a deep knowledge of central developments in the history of astronomical thought;
  • develop skills in elementary astronomical observations;
  • comprehend the complex relation between the cultural foundations of science and the study of natural phenomena;
  • appreciate the cultural differences in the study of nature while being able to assume a comparative perspective;
  • conduct independent research including the appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an historical argument;
  • develop effective communication and presentation skills (written and oral), and the ability to collaborate constructively within the classroom;
  • demonstrate ethical integrity in written work and classroom activities
  • One take home test, due February 5th 2016 (10%)
  • One 1200 word observation report due February 10th 2016 (30%)
  • One instrument analysis due February 16th 2016 (30%)
  • A 1200 word essay, due March 4th 2016 (30%)

Hurdle requirement:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject.
  • All pieces of written work must be submitted in order to pass this subject.

Note: Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. After five working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked.
Regular participation in tutorials is required. For students who need to graduate it is possible to finalise the result for this subject before the end of February 2016

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be made available before the start of the subject.

Recommended Texts:

John North, Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Graduate Certificate in Arts - History and Philosophy of Science
Graduate Diploma in Arts - History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
Related Breadth Track(s): Understanding the Development of Science

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