Science and Ideology in the 20th Century

Subject 136-509 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 1, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A two-hour seminar per week.
Total Time Commitment: 2 contact hours/week, 8 additional hours/week. Total of 10 hours per week.
Prerequisites: Admission into the postgraduate diploma or fourth-year honours, or a masters program.
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 Kristian Camilleri


Dr Kristian Camilleri

Subject Overview: In the first half of the twentieth century the natural sciences underwent a dramatic transformation, both in terms of their theoretical foundations and their tehnological applications. But this was also a tumultuous period of European cultural and political history, which witnessed two World Wars, the establishment of the Weimar republic, the rise of Nazism and the impact of Marxist-Leninist thought. In this subject we examine the ways in which science was brought into contact with the wider cultural and political attitudes of the time. Here we explore the controversial thesis that social , cultural and ideological factors played a role not only in the direction and organisation of scientific thought but also in the content and form of scientific theories. Through an analysis of several case studies, we investigate the ways in which the discovery, interpretation and reception of new scientific ideas in physics, biology, medicine, and anthropology were shaped by various cultural, intellectual, and ideological movements. Of particular interest will be the way scientists themselves responded to the social and political upheavals of the time, particularly after the First World War, and to what extent their own thought and work bears the mark of such influence.
  • to understand the history of science within a broader social, political and cultural context
  • to appreciate how different historiographical approaches and can provide new insights into the understanding of science
  • to recognise the difficulties in understanding the motivations and attitudes of scientists in different historical and social contexts
  • to demonstrate an ability to write clear, coherent and persuasive analyses of ambiguous and difficult issues
Assessment: Written work totalling 5,000 words comprising a 1,000 word review, 20% (due in week seven), and a 4,000 word research essay, 80% (due at the end of semester).
Prescribed Texts: Course reader will be made available from the University Bookshop. Readings will also be made available online.
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • develop skills in written and oral communication;
  • conduct independent research;
  • make appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an argument;
  • form defensible judgements based on a critical evaluation of conflicting evidence.
Related Course(s): M.A.History & Philosophy of Science (Advanced Seminars & Shorter Thesis)
Master of Arts (Science, Communication and Society)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science

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