A History of Nature

Subject HPSC20002 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

January, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 07-Jan-2015 to 20-Jan-2015
Assessment Period End 20-Feb-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 09-Jan-2015
Census Date 16-Jan-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-Feb-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 1 x 2-hour lecture each day and 1 x 1-hour tutorial each day over the two week teaching period 7 - 21 January 2015.
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects:
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 Gerhard Wiesenfeldt


Dr Gerhard Wiesenfeldt


Subject Overview:

This subject discusses central topics in human understandings about their environment in the Western world, particularly 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. Modern Science with the inherent idea of a mastery over nature is an outcome of this process. We will trace how in this history different interpretations of 'nature' have shaped science and have been shaped by science in return, including topics such as taxonomy, gardening, theories of life, and the rise of environmentalism. 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.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • demonstrate knowledge of changes in the understanding of nature that have occurred in the western world over the last 500 years;
  • demonstrate knowledge of the explanations given by historians for these understandings;
  • demonstrate understanding for the complex cultural and social developments that have contributed in this process;
  • develop an understanding of key scientific and philosophical concepts;
  • develop an evidence-based opinion on the sustainability of our relationship with nature;
  • conduct independent research including the appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an historical argument;
  • develop effective communication and presentation skills (written and oral), and the ability to collaborate constructively within the classroom;
  • demonstrate ethical integrity in written work and classroom activities

A group poster equivalent to 1000 words, 25% (due in the teaching period), a take home test equivalent to 1000 words, 25% (due at the end of the subject), and a research essay 2000 words, 50% (due 31 January 2015).

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:

Subject readings will be available online and fromthe bookshop.

Recommended Texts:

Donald Worster, Nature's economy: a history of ecological ideas. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 1994

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
Links to further information: http://hps.unimelb.edu.au/
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Environmental Studies
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
Related Breadth Track(s): Understanding Nature

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