From Plato to Einstein

Subject HPSC10001 (2010)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2010.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 1 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2010:

Semester 2, Parkville - 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: Two 1-hour lectures and a 1 hour tutorial
Total Time Commitment: An average of 8 hours each week.
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: There is no specific background knowledge required for this subject.
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 Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website :

Subject Overview:

In this subject, we embark on a fascinating journey through the history of science, exploring changing ideas about the physical world from antiquity to the present day. Beginning with the birth of 'natural philosophy' in Greece in the 6 th century B.C., this subject traces the central place of Aristotle's physics in ancient and medieval thought, before examining the rise of new ideas about nature and the cosmos in the Renaissance and early modern period, culminating with the work of Isaac Newton. We then turn our attention to the science of the Enlightenment and the Romantic period, before concluding our story with the revolution in our conception of physical reality which took place in the 20 th century.

Students will be introduced to the physical thought of thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Faraday and Einstein. The subject will focus on a number of important themes such as the view that there is an inherent unity in nature, and the different attempts throughout history to understand gravity. Students taking this subject will gain a wide ranging introduction of the history of science and an appreciation of the way in which it has been shaped by wider cultural and intellectual movements


Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • have an understanding of the major conceptual shifts that occurred in the history of physical thought.
  • appreciate the way in which different intellectual and cultural movements such as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment helped to shape people's views about the cosmos.
  • become aware of the difficulties in understanding the thoughts and attitudes of people historically remote from us.
  • have practice at writing clear, coherent and persuasive analyses of ambiguous and difficult issues.
Assessment: An essay of 2000 words 50% (due at during the examination period) and three short written assignments (totalling 50%) to be submitted throughout the semester.
Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available for purchase from the University Book Shop.

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
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • Engage in critical reflection about the past and its connection to the present
  • Develop skills in written and oral communication
  • Conduct independent research
  • Make use of appropriate primary and secondary sources in mounting an argument
  • Form defensible judgments on the basis of a critical evaluation of arguments in the secondary literature
Links to further information:
Notes: This subject is available for science credit for students enrolled in the BSc (pre-2008 degree only), or a combined BSc course (except for the BA/BSc).
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History && Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science Major

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