A History of Nature

Subject HPSC20002 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2011.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 3 (1 x 2 hour lecture each day and 1 x 1 hour tutorial each day over the two week teaching period 31st January to 11th February 2011.)
Total Time Commitment: in addition to the contact time an average of 8.5 hours a week should be spent during the assessment period
Prerequisites: None.
Corequisites: None.
Recommended Background Knowledge: Knowledge gained in completing a minimum of 75 points of first year subjects.
Non Allowed Subjects: Students who have completed 'A history of Nature' under the codes 136-035, 136-335, 672-317 or HPSC30005 are not permitted to enrol in this subject.
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: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/


Dr Sara Maroske


Subject Overview:

This subject traces some of the changes in scientific thought about our environment in the western world over the last 500 years. As Europeans spread out from their continent in the fifteenth century, they discovered new environments that challenged their received wisdom about themselves and their relationship to nature. We will trace developments in emerging natural sciences such as astronomy, natural history, evolutionary biology, geology and ecology. Case studies will be drawn from the Europe and its colonies and focus on questions relating to the shape of the universe, the classification of organisms, animal rights, acclimatisation, evolution, eugenics, and sustainable living. This subject should be of interest to students who would like to learn more about the origins of the environmental sciences and our ongoing attempts to live within a changing environment.


Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • demonstrate a knowledge of changes in scientific thought about nature that have occurred in the western world over the last 500 years.
  • demonstrate an awareness of the explanations given by historians for these new scientific understandings.
  • gain experience in independent research by:

o learning how to read and interpret documents and various other kinds of historical sources,

o by developing an understanding of key scientific and philosophical concepts,

o by critiquing arguments made by different historians,

o by drawing and defending your own conclusions,

o and by gaining a correct knowledge of the documentation and citation techniques used in the writing of history.

Assessment: A document exercise of 1000 words 20% due 25th January 2010, a research essay of 3000 words 70% due 8th February 2010, class participation and contribution 10%. This subject has a minimum hurdle requirement of 75% tutorial attendance. Regular participation in tutorials is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.
Prescribed Texts:

A reading pack 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 subjects will:

  • 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 arguments.
Links to further information: http://www.pasi.unimelb.edu.au/hps/
Notes: This subject is available for 2nd year science credit for students enrolled in the BSc (pre-2008 degree only), or a combined BSc course (except for the BA/BSc). For science third year, see HPSC30005 (A History of Nature (Science 3)). 1HPSC30005 is not available as breadth and should be taken by pre 2008 3rd year science students only. See HPS major - https://handbook.unimelb.edu.au/view/2010/755-BB
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Environmental Studies
Environmental Studies Major
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science Major
Science credit subjects* for pre-2008 BSc, BASc and combined degree science courses
Related Breadth Track(s): Understanding Nature

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