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Week 10. Objectivities

This week is all about how people know what they know, how they confront people who claim to know something different, how to define science and how to change it, and how history and science have been linked together. This is the last instructional week of the course, and a chance to put together a lot of the things we have been learning all semester!

What to do in week 10

  • Congratulate yourself! You have learned a lot this semester. Make sure to reflect on and appreciate what you have accomplished. Recognizing what you have learned is part of the learning process, and will help you prepare for your final self-evaluation part of your assessment submission.
  • Whole class and tutorial meetings will run on the normal schedule this week. There will be time at the end of each of the whole class meetings when we will turn the recording off and have an open discussion about your ideas from your course reading and proofs of learning.
  • The Florilegium can be a great way to share suggestions and examples and feedback with each other as you work on your assessments. The login is posted on the university's virtual learning environment course site, so you can post anonymously and just among fellow course participants.
  • This is your last regularly scheduled chance to make sure you are on track and understand what you need to do for your assessment. Updated submission instructions are on the Assessment information page. Please use your course blog according to the instructions provided here, and remember to cite your sources to demonstrate what you have read and understood from the course materials this semester. Late submissions are not accepted in this course.

End of Course Feedback

  • The optional end-of-course feedback form is here.
  • To be honest, the best source of feedback we get every year is from your own self-evaluations, so you only need to complete that form if there are aspects of the course to feed back that are not reflected in your self-eval.
  • The exception to this is: if you have had a positive experience of the course (we hope you have!) then we would be grateful if you would write that in the form of a EUSA Teaching Award nomination. The deadline is Friday 29 March! EUSA nominations are directly helpful for careers and recognition for the course organiser and tutors, and they also help future students find out about the course! Those of us who teach in semester 2 are at a disadvantage because of the nomination timing and the greater effects of industrial action in semester 2 in recent years (including this one), so we (and all your semester 2 teachers) especially welcome this form of feedback.
  • If you add some advice to future students to the class florilegium (log in using the instructions on the Learn site), I'd love to be able to share your tips with those who take the course after you!

Lecture slides

Unit 10 slides (login required)


  1. Make a list of “revolutions” (French, Glorious, Scientific, Industrial, Dance Dance1), etc.) and some people or things that have been called “revolutionary.” What do these have in common? How do they differ? What does calling something a revolution or revolutionary imply?
  2. Choose a nearby object and attempt to write as objective as possible a description of it. How well did you succeed? What are the challenges to creating an objective description? Would every potential reader see your description as equally objective? (Someone who speaks a different language? Someone with a very different life experience? A non-human reader?)
  3. Think of some people you trust as sources of facts and of scientific information. What makes someone trustworthy, on a specific topic or in general?

Reading Guide

  • Readings on the history and historiography of revolutions in science (some of these are better read as secondary sources and some as primary sources): Sprat, Bacon, Hall, Kuhn, Cohen, Needham, Low, Shapin and Schaffer, Shapin (SSS), Henry.
  • Readings on objectivity and the (historical) sociology of scientific knowledge (some of these are also better read more as primary than secondary sources): Harding, Daston and Galison, Barnes Bloor & Henry, Golinski, Feyerabend, Descartes, Snow, Bloor, Wolfe, Shapin (LARB), Gordin, Renn, Proctor et al, Cowles, Jewett.
  • Historiographical framings and arguments: Jordanova (two books), Oldenziel, Edgerton, Prescod-Weinstein.
  • Object(ivitie)s and sites: Daston (two books), Alberti et al., Alberti, Livingstone, Delbourgo, Raj.


A. Historians often look to controversies as moments when the stakes and methods of science come into the open and can be more effectively analysed and understood. Find a controversy from the history of science discussed in one or more of the course materials and explain what the dispute made visible that would otherwise be harder to see.

B. Using the course materials, identify and discuss an episode from the history of science that has been called a revolution or revolutionary. Who called it a revolution or revolutionary, why, and what was at stake in seeing it that way?

C. Objectivity has been historically associated with specific kinds of people, practices, and settings. Identify and discuss from the course materials an example of such a link, explaining what assumptions and values lent authority to the features or qualities of the person/practice/setting in question.

Is this still a thing? It used to be a big thing.
intro/objectivities.txt · Last modified: 2024/03/25 00:05 by mjb