Astronomy in World History

Subject HPSC20015 (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: 0ne 2 hour Lecture and one 1 hour tutorial per day over the 2 week teaching period. The teaching period will commence on February 4th 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:


Non Allowed Subjects:

Students who have completed 136-288, 136388 or HPSC30008 'Astronomy: The Universe in World History' or 'Astronomy in World History' 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:

Subject Overview:

In many cultures the study of celestial phenomena has taken a central role in the attempts to understand their surroundings. The apparent regularity of sun, moon and stars enabled observers to formulate rules for the behaviour of celestial bodies and derive predictions from them. Consequently, astronomy has not only become the oldest field in the systematic study of nature, it gives an opportunity to compare these studies among different civilizations. This subject investigates the development of astronomical thought in various cultures ranging from East and South Asia via the Middle East and Europe to Latin America. Central questions will be: How were the same phenomena interpreted in different cultures? How was the relation between sun, moon and earth regarded? How were astronomical observations done? What functions did astronomy have in culture? How was astronomical knowledge transmitted in cultural exchanges? Why did early modern Europe become the place that developed the idea of modern science? What was the relevance of the heliocentric planetary system - with the earth revolving around the sun - in this development? The subject will thus give an overview of the genesis of our modern world view while offering reflections on cross-cultural studies of science.

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Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • understand central developments in the history of astronomical thought.
  • comprehend the complex relation between the cultural foundations of science and the study of natural phenomena.
  • appreciate the cultural differences in the study of nature while being able to assume a comparative perspective.
  • demonstrate the ability to analyse complex problems in great depth.

One 1200 word observation report 30%, two short written assignments (totalling 30%), all to be submitted during the teaching period and one 1600 word essay 40% (due 3 weeks after the conclusion of the teaching period)

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 subject reader will be made available before the start of the subject.

Recommended Texts:

John North, Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008

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.
  • assess the diversity of cultural developments.
  • 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:

This subject is available for 2nd Year science credit for students enrolled in the BSc, or a combined BSc course (except for the BA/BS Note: this relates to pre-2008 degrees only). For science third year, see HSPC30008 (Astronomy in World History (Science 3)). HPSC30008 is not a Breadth option and is available to pre 2008 science students only.

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science Major
Related Breadth Track(s): Understanding the Development of Science

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