From Plato to Einstein

Subject HPSC10001 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 1 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 25-Jul-2016 to 23-Oct-2016
Assessment Period End 18-Nov-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 05-Aug-2016
Census Date 31-Aug-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 23-Sep-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 35 hours - 2 x1 hour lectures each week and 1 x 1-hour tutorial for 11 weeks
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 Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Kristian Camilleri



Subject Overview:

In this subject, we embark on a fascinating journey through the history of scientific thought, exploring changing ideas about the physical world from antiquity to the present day. Beginning with the ‘Greek miracle’ in the sixth century BC, the subject traces the central place of Aristotle’s natural philosophy in the ancient and medieval world, before examining the dramatic transformation of natural knowledge during the Renaissance and early modern period. We then turn our attention to the emergence of the scientific culture of the Enlightenment, which gave rise to the quantitative and mathematical discipline of physics in the nineteenth century. We cover topics such as medieval and renaissance alchemy, the shift from the earth-centred to the sun-centred view of the cosmos, the rise of the mechanical philosophy, the Romantic ideal of the unity of forces in nature, and the changing conceptions of light, heat, electricity and gravity. Students will be introduced to the writings of major figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Faraday and Einstein. This subject offers an introduction to the history of science and a deeper appreciation of the way in which it has been shaped by wider social, political and cultural movements.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • develop a broad understanding of the major conceptual shifts that occurred in the history of physical thought;
  • develop an appreciation of the way in which wider intellectual and cultural movements shaped knowledge of the physical world in different historical eras;
  • acquire an understanding of the different forms of explanation and modes of inquiry in the physical sciences;
  • develop and awareness of the difficulties in understanding the thoughts and attitudes of people historically remote from us;
  • acquire skills in writing clear, coherent and persuasive analyses of ambiguous and difficult issues;
  • acquire skills in comprehending the meaning and historical significance of texts.
  • A 600 word written assignment, due in week 5 (15%)
  • An 800 word assignment, due in week 9 (20%)
  • A 600 word assignment, due in week 12 (15%)
  • A 2000 word essay, due in the end of semester examination period (50%)

Hurdle requirement:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject.
  • All pieces of written work must be submitted in order to pass this subject.

Note: 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.
Regular participation in tutorials is required.

Prescribed Texts:

Subject readings will be available online

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: Graduate Certificate in Arts - History and Philosophy of Science
Graduate Diploma in Arts - History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
Related Breadth Track(s): Understanding the Development of Science

Download PDF version.