The Intersection

I’ve been thrilled at the comments I’m getting in response to my posts on Nicholaus Copernicus. See for example here. So I’ve thought of a plan to invite blog readers to join me throughout the next several months as I push through a large number of other texts like De revolutionibus.

For the remainder of this week, the primary reading will be Copernicus. (I still have a ways to go to finish.) Secondary readings will be Owen Gingerich’s The Book Nobody Read and Thomas Kuhn’s The Copernican Revolution.

After that, here’s the schedule I’m working from, and will strive to keep to–with Amazon links to the book versions I’m using wherever possible, and some questions included as well:

Week of February 23-March 1–Galileo

Original Readings: Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Messenger), Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences

Secondary Readings: The Cambridge Companion to Galileo.

Question: Should the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina also be included?

Week of March 2-8–Francis Bacon

Original Readings: Bacon, The Major Works, with central emphasis on The New Atlantis.

Secondary Readings: None–suggestions?

Week of March 9-15–Newton

Original Readings: Principia

Secondary Readings: Cambridge Companion to Newton; Newton, Norton Critical Edition

Comment: This is going to be incredibly painful….

Week of March 16-22: Linnaeus and Maupertuis

Original Readings: Carolus Linnaeus, Systema Naturae, Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, The Figure of the Earth, Determined from Observations made by Order of the French King at the Polar Circle.

Secondary Readings: None yet.

Comment: This is tough; my sense right now is that both of these have to be found in libraries. At last, Amazon fails! More details when I have them….

Week of March 23-29–Captain Cook

Original Readings: James Cook, The Journals, Denis Diderot, Political Writings (specifically to read the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville)

Week of March 30-April 5–Humboldt

Original Readings: Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent During the Years 1799-1804

Comment: I think the original to this is many volumes long. We’re going abridged.

Week of April 6-12–Lyell

Original Readings: Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology; Georges Cuvier, Recherches sure les Ossmens Fossiles de Quadrupedes (in Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes

Week of April 13-19–Darwin I

Original Readings: The Voyage of the Beagle

Week of April 20-26–Darwin II

Original Reading: On the Origin of Species

So what do people think of this draft syllabus? It takes a particular walk through the history of science that’s focused on the relationship between science and exploration. This is heavily influenced by the course I’m taking–and it also makes the readings a lot more fun, as there are a ton of scientific travel narratives…

Comments

  1. #1 Coturnix
    February 18, 2009

    The Theory of Natural Philosophy (1758) is crazy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ru%C4%91er_Bo%C5%A1kovi%C4%87

  2. #2 Ashutosh
    February 18, 2009

    How about throwing in some original papers? In this context, Alan Lightman’s The Discoveries: Great Breakthroughs in 20th-Century Science, Including the Original Papers may be a worthy addition, although it focuses on the 20th century. For the books that you don’t seem to get on Amazon, have you looked at Abebooks?

  3. #3 Wes
    February 18, 2009

    I think that’s a great idea. I read the Principia, the Two New Sciences, and the Origin of Species as part of my undergrad. And though I haven’t read Linnaeus, Humboldt or Lyell, I’ve read a lot about them. I’d be really interested to read your thoughts on them.

  4. #4 Robert Grumbine
    February 18, 2009

    A quick addition: Aristotle’s work on classifying animals, to go with Linnaeus. I haven’t gotten far in it, but Aristotle is much more evidence-based here than usually given credit. John Wilkins can give you much more detail. While I’m at it, see if you can get a copy of Wilkins’ book(s) for a modern’s summary of the history and use of species concepts.

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