History of Science and Medicine; Techonological and Digital History
HIST 24007 Chernobyl: Bodies and Nature After Disaster (P. O'Donnell) When reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded, it quickly made headlines around the world. Swedes found radiation in their air, Germans in their milk, Greeks in their grain, and Britons in their sheep. Ukrainians and Belarusians found it in their rain, wind, water sources, homes, and in their children's thyroids. Americans worried about finding it in their bodies, especially in pregnant or fetal bodies. A lot of roads led to the Chernobyl disaster: the Soviet state system, to be sure, but also the Cold War arms race, a faith in scientific progress shared in East and West, and a global disregard for the natural world and the human body. This course will follow those roads to the climax of the explosion and then examine the many paths out of Chernobyl: the disaster's aftereffects on geopolitics, environmentalism, feminism, and body politics. We will draw on a recent outpouring of scholarly and popular works on Chernobyl, including books, podcasts, and television series. We will also read texts on feminism, environmentalism, and other nuclear disasters, Cold War histories, and fiction to provide context and sites for further inquiry.
HIST 25014 Introduction to Environmental History (F. Albritton Jonsson) How have humans interacted with the environment over time? This course introduces students to the methods and topics of environmental history by way of classic and recent works in the field: Crosby, Cronon, Worster, Russell, and McNeill, etc. Major topics of investigation include preservationism, ecological imperialism, evolutionary history, forest conservation, organic and industrial agriculture, labor history, the commons and land reform, energy consumption, and climate change. Our scope covers the whole period from 1492 with case studies from European, American, and British imperial history.
HIST 25216 The History of Alchemy (J. Niermeier-Dohoney, Teaching Fellow) This course will examine the history of alchemy in the Greco-Egyptian Mediterranean, the Arab Middle East, the Latin Middle Ages, and the early modern era. Topics will include alchemy's development as a chemical science for understanding physical change in nature, its major goals (e.g., gold making and the discovery of the Philosopher’s Stone), the application of its theories in medicine and pharmacology, religious admonitions and defenses of its practices, its relationship with other contemporary esoteric fields such as natural magic and secrecy, its potential effects on political economy, its intellectual place in the history of the scientific revolution, reasons for its “decline” in the early eighteenth century, and its revival in the spiritualism of Victorian Britain and twentieth-century Jungian psychology. Readings will include major primary source writings in translation by Zosimus, Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Ḥayyān, George Ripley, Paracelsus, George Starkey, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton, as well as modern histories on the topic. This course may include the examination of manuscripts at Regenstein Special Collections and in-class chemical demonstrations of some simple alchemical experiments.