Astronomy in World History

Subject HPSC20015 (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:

February, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 02-Feb-2015 to 13-Feb-2015
Assessment Period End 06-Mar-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 04-Feb-2015
Census Date 13-Feb-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 20-Feb-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Two 1-hour lectures and one 1-hour tutorial per day over the 2 week teaching period 2 -13 February 2015. An additional 2 hours of observation classes during the first week (to be arranged at the beginning of the subject).
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

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


Dr Gerhard Wiesenfeldt


Dr Gerhard Wiesenfeldt

Subject Overview:

In many cultures the study of celestial phenomena has taken a central role in the attempts to understand the world they lived in. The apparent regularity of sun, moon and stars enabled observers to formulate rules for the behaviour of celestial bodies and derive predictions from these rules. The subject will study how astronomical knowledge has developed throughout the world. It combines simple astronomical observations with classes discussing the historical development of astronomy in different cultures ranging from East Asia via the Middle East and Europe to Central America and Australia.

Central questions will be: How were the same phenomena interpreted in different cultures? How were astronomical observations done? What political and religious functions did astronomy have? How was astronomical knowledge transmitted between different cultures? Why did early modern Europe become the place that developed the idea of modern science and how did other civilisations react to the astronomical developments in Europe? The subject will thus give an overview of the origins of our modern world view while offering reflections on cross-cultural studies of science.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • possess a deep knowledge of central developments in the history of astronomical thought;
  • develop skills in elementary astronomical observations;
  • 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;
  • 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

One 1200 word observation report 30%, (due day 7 of teaching period), two 600 word assignments, 30%, (due day 5 and day 10 of teaching period) and 1600 word essay, 40% (due 3 weeks after 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. After 5 working days, late assessment will not be marked.

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
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
Related Breadth Track(s): Understanding the Development of Science

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