A History of Nature

Subject HPSC20002 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

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

This subject is not offered in 2013.

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 14th to 25th of January 2013.
Total Time Commitment:

in addition to the contact time an average of 8.5 hours a week should be spent during the assessment period





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/

Subject Overview:

This subject discusses some of the changes in scientific understandings about our environment in the western world over the last 500 years. As Europeans began to venture out of their continent in the 15th century, they discovered new environments that challenged their received wisdom about themselves and their relationship to nature. This led to a ‘Scientific Revolution’ with science thereafter increasingly regarded in the West as the dominant way of understanding and controlling the physical world. We will identify and explain some of these changes in nine case studies drawn from a range of emerging sciences in Europe and its colonies, from the 15th century to the present, and consider whether or not they have been to the benefit of humans and our environment. The sciences include astronomy, taxonomy, natural theology, geology, evolutionary biology, acclimatisation, eugenics, atomic physics and ecology. This subject should be of interest to students who would like to learn more about the origins of the environmental sciences, the dominance of scientific understandings of nature, and our ongoing attempts to live within a changing environment.

For further subject information please visit: http://shaps.unimelb.edu.au/students/undergraduate/handbook-study-guides.html


Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • demonstrate knowledge of changes in scientific understandings about nature that have occurred in the western world over the last 500 years,
  • demonstrate knowledge of the explanations given by historians for these new scientific understandings,
  • develop an evidence-based opinion on the sustainability of our relationship with nature,
  • gain experience in independent research by:

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

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

·by critiquing arguments made by different historians,

·by drawing and defending your own conclusions,

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


A document exercise of 1000 words 20% due 28th January 2010, a research essay of 3000 words 70% due 4th February 2010, class participation and contribution 10%.

Hurdle requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject. Regular participation in tutorials is required. 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. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A reading pack will be available.

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://hps.unimelb.edu.au/

This subject is available for 2nd year science credit for students enrolled in the BSc (pre-2008 degree only), or a pre-2008 combined BSc course (except for the BA/BSc). For science third year, see HPSC30005 (A History of Nature (Science 3)). HPSC30005 is not available as breadth and can only be taken by pre 2008 3rd year science students. See HPS major - https://handbook.unimelb.edu.au/view/2013/755-BB

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Environmental Studies
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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