History and Philosophy of Science

The University offers a number of courses in the history and philosophy of science, although it does not, at this time, offer a major or concentration to undergraduates in Columbia College or General Studies. The course listings bring together a variety of courses from different disciplines, which should be of interest to anyone wishing to pursue work in the history and philosophy of science. The list is not intended to be all inclusive; students interested in the history and philosophy of science should speak to members of the committee.

Interdepartmental Committee on History and Philosophy of Science

David Albert
706 Philosophy; 212-854-3519

Walter Bock (emeritus)
1106 Schermerhorn; 212-854-4487

Marwa Elshakry
512 Fayerweather; 212-851-5914

Karl Jacoby
424 Hamilton; 212-854-3248

Richard John
201E Pulitzer; 212-854-0547

Matthew Jones
514 Fayerweather; 212-854-2421

Joel Kaye
422B Lehman; 212-854-4350

Philip Kitcher
717 Philosophy; 212-854-4884

Eugenia Lean
925 International Affairs Building; 212-854-1742

Christia Mercer
707 Philosophy; 212-854-3190

Alondra Nelson
607 Knox; 212-851-7081

Samuel Roberts
History/Sociomedical Sciences 
322 Fayerweather; 212-854-2430

David Rosner
History/Sociomedical Sciences 
420 Fayerweather; 212-854-4272

David Rothman
History/Sociomedical Sciences
622 West 168th Street; 212-305-4096

George Saliba (emeritus)
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
312 Knox; 212-854-4166

Pamela Smith
605 Fayerweather; 212-854-7662

Fall 2018

HIST BC1062 Introduction to Later Middle Ages: 1050-1450. 4 points.

BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Historical Studies (HIS).

Social environment, political, and religious institutions, and the main intellectual currents of the Latin West studied through primary sources and modern historical writings.

Fall 2018: HIST BC1062
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
HIST 1062 001/01340 M W 10:10am - 11:25am
903 Altschul Hall
Joel Kaye 4 33

HIST BC3062 Medieval Economic Life and Thought ca 1000 to 1500. 4 points.

BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Historical Studies (HIS).

Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. Preregistration required.

Traces the development of economic enterprises and techniques in their cultural context: agricultural markets, industry, commercial partnerships, credit, large-scale banking, insurance, and merchant culture. Examines usury and just price theory, the scholastic analysis of price and value, and the recognition of the market as a self-regulating system, centuries before Adam Smith.

Fall 2018: HIST BC3062
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
HIST 3062 001/01485 T 4:10pm - 6:00pm
502 Diana Center
Joel Kaye 4 13/15

HIST UN2112 The Scientific Revolution in Western Europe: 1500-1750. 4 points.

Introduction to the cultural, social, and intellectual history of the upheavals of astronomy, anatomy, mathematics, alchemy from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Field(s): EME

Fall 2018: HIST UN2112
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
HIST 2112 001/63154 T Th 1:10pm - 2:25pm
313 Fayerweather
Matthew Jones 4 17/75

HIST UN3911 Medicine and Western Civilization. 4 points.

Priority given to majors and concentrators, seniors, and juniors, but other majors are welcome.

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.

This seminar seeks to analyze the ways by which medicine and culture combine to shape our values and traditions. To this end, it will examine notable literary, medical, and social texts from classical antiquity to the present.

Fall 2018: HIST UN3911
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
HIST 3911 001/73694 M 4:10pm - 6:00pm
311 Fayerweather
David Rothman 4 19/20

Spring 2018

HIST BC2116 The History of Money. 3 points.

Examining the history of money and the history of ways of thinking about money. We investigate how different monetary forms developed and how they have shaped and been shaped by culture, society, and politics. Tracing money from gift-giving societies to the European Monetary Union, the focus is on early modern Europe.

HIST UN3437 Poisoned Worlds: Corporate Behavior and Public Health. 4 points.

Priority given to majors and concentrators, seniors, and juniors.

In the decades since the publication of Silent Spring and the rise of the environmental movement, public awareness of the impact of industrial products on human health has grown enormously. There is growing concern over BPA, lead, PCBs, asbestos, and synthetic materials that make up the world around us. This course will focus on environmental history, industrial and labor history as well as on how twentieth century consumer culture shapes popular and professional understanding of disease. Throughout the term the class will trace the historical transformation of the origins of disease through primary sources such as documents gathered in lawsuits, and medical and public health literature. Students will be asked to evaluate historical debates about the causes of modern epidemics of cancer, heart disease, lead poisoning, asbestos-related illnesses and other chronic conditions. They will also consider where responsibility for these new concerns lies, particularly as they have emerged in law suits. Together, we will explore the rise of modern environmental movement in the last 75 years. 

Spring 2019: HIST UN3437
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
HIST 3437 001/62487 W 8:10am - 10:00am
Room TBA
David Rosner 4 15/18

INSM UN3921 Nobility and Civility II. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

Prerequisites: one semester of Contemporary Civilization or Literature Humanities, or an equivalent course, and the instructor's permission.

A team-taught multicultural, interdisciplinary course examining traditions of leadership and citizenship as they appear in the key texts of early Indian, Islamic, Far Eastern, and Western civilizations. One goal is to identify and examine common human values and issues evident in these texts while also recognizing key cultural differences

Spring 2019: INSM UN3921
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
INSM 3921 001/82246 W 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Hl-1 Heyman Center For Humanities
Douglas Chalmers, Rachel Chung 4 4/21

Of Related Interest

Biological Sciences
BIOL UN3208Introduction to Evolutionary Biology
Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
CSER W3222Nature and Power: Environmental History of the US
Colloquia, Interdepartmental Seminars, and Professional School Offerings
INSM C3940Science Across Cultures
HIST UN2523History of Health Inequality in the Modern United States
HSPB UN2950Social History of American Public Health
HIST UN3911Medicine and Western Civilization
HIST GU4584Drug Policy and Race
History (Barnard)
HIST BC2180Merchants, Pirates, and Slaves in the Making of Atlantic Capitalism
HIST BC2305Bodies and Machines
HIST BC2388Introduction to History of Science since 1800
HIST BC3119Capitalism and Enlightenment
HIST BC3324Vienna and the Birth of the Modern
PHIL UN2101The History of Philosophy I: Presocratics to Augustine
PHIL UN2201History of Philosophy II: Aquinas to Kant
PHIL UN3251Kant
Women's Studies (Barnard)
WMST BC3509Gender, Knowledge and Science in Modern European History