Science and Ideology in the 20th Century

Subject HPSC40014 (2010)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2010.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2010:

Semester 1, 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: A two-hour seminar per week.
Total Time Commitment: An average of 10 hours each week.
Prerequisites: Admission into the postgraduate diploma or fourth-year honours, or a masters program.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: Knowledge gained in the successful completion of an undergraduate degree.
Non Allowed Subjects: This subject was previously taught under the code 136-509. Students who have completed 136-509 are not permitted to enrol in this subject.
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests 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 :


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 technological applications. But this was also a tumultuous period of European cultural and political history, which witnessed two World Wars and stark differences in political ideology and regime between liberal capitalist democracy, Nazism, Fascism and Soviet Marxism. In this subject we examine the ways in which the genesis, development, interpretation and reception of scientific theories were entangled with the wider social, cultural and political ferment of the time. Through an analysis of several case studies from physics, biology, and psychology in the twentieth century, we will critically examine the controversial thesis that social, cultural and ideological movements are not only shaped by, but also shape, the very form and content of scientific theories. Of particular interest here 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.


Student who successfully complete this course will have learnt

  • 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 during semester), and a 4,000 word research essay, 80% (due at the end of semester).
Prescribed Texts:

A 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:

Student who successfully complete this course will be able to

  • 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.
Links to further information:
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 && Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science

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