Instructor: Dr. Ryan Patterson


This course will introduce you to the history of science, technology, and medicine. It is a field of study about much more than a list of discoveries and inventions – it also explores the diverse ways that people in the past have understood humanity’s place in nature, defined bodies and gender, interpreted ethnicity and racial difference, tackled illness and disease, exploited natural resources, and pursued innovation and “progress”. We are going to dive into a range of case studies in different times and places to give you a sample of the kinds of historical topics, methods, and specialties that are out there. This course will center on Europe and North America in the 18th through 20th centuries, but will also expand out to some non-Western settings. We will look at colonial, imperial, and postcolonial situations where very different concepts of science and medicine interacted and clashed.

This course will also introduce you to the fundamental methods of historical research, including: how to use the library and online databases, how to interrogate and employ source material as historical evidence (from newspapers and diaries to photographs and advertisements), and how to critically evaluate historical scholarship and the competing viewpoints of different historians. You will also develop key skills invaluable for all university study, including: efficient reading and note taking, effective essay writing, and presenting your work to others.

Class Format and Assessment:

The course will feature lectures, discussion groups, resource site visits, regular small assignments, a research project, peer-to-peer review, scheduled exams, and group work. Much of the course will be structured around the research project and you will build towards this larger objective in series of smaller stages that will allow you to learn, plan, and respond to feedback.

Aims and Goals:

This course should improve your ability to:

– Apply critical thinking and communication skills to a range of life situations.

– Evaluate historical scholarship and different historical arguments.

– Recognize and apply historical methods to make effective historical arguments.

– Express yourself effectively and concisely in writing

– Coordinate your ideas, research, and outputs (written and oral) with colleagues.


There is no textbook or course pack to purchase for this course. The readings and historical sources that I assign will be available either online, on the course website, or through the MacOdrum Library Reserves.


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