This is the website for HPS 322 (line no. 80304)

History of Science (Greek Antiquity through 17th Century)

Fall semester 2013

It meets 3:00-4:15 p.m., TuTh in Discovery Hall (old agriculture building) 350

The instructor is Professor Michael J. White

Instructor’s Offices:

Armstrong Hall 211 (law school) &

LSC (Life Sciences C-Wing) 248 (SoLS)


Tels. (480) 965-0105 (law); 965-0219 (SoLS) 


Office Hours: M 4:00-5:30 p.m. (LSC 248); W 4:00-5:30 p.m. (Armstrong 211):

TuTh 10:30-11:30 a.m. (Armstrong 211); and by appointment.


1. Syllabus

2. Introductory material

3.  Some paradoxes associated with Zeno of Elea

4.  Incommensurability of side and diagonal of a square

5.  Some propositions about Plato

6.  Some propositions about Aristotle

7.  Some propositions about ancient Greek mathematics

8.  ‘Beginning ancient astronomy’:  Mr. LaTourelle’s PowerPoint slides

9.  The Delian Problem’; and Menaechmus’ (geometrical) solution to it

10.  Some of the major players in ancient (‘Western’) astronomy

11.  The celestial sphere with ecliptic; the zodiac

12.  Two systems of stellar coordinates

13.  Tropical (solar) year vs. sidereal (stellar) year & precession of the equinoxes

14.  Equivalence of method of eccentrics and of deferents and epicycles (due to Apollonius)

15.  Trigonometric identities in antiquity

16.  Ancient techniques of terrestrial and celestial mensuration (Eratosthenes and Aristarchus);

Absolute distances from earth to moon and to sun (Aristarchus)

17.  Cicero:  ‘The dream of Scipio’ (‘popular’ ancient cosmology/celestial mechanics)

18.  Aristotle on ‘mathematical principles’ of  (terrestrial) local motion (from Aristotle, Physics, Book 7, ch. 5)

19.  Aristotle on the problem of projectile motion (from Aristotle, Physics, Book 8, ch. 10)

20.  Refresher on principles of projectile motion in ‘classical modern’ (‘Newtonian’) physics

21.  Study guide for midterm examination

22.  Archimedes on the (discovery of) the volume of a sphere

23.  Selection from Archimedes’ On the Equilibrium of Planes/The Centers of Gravity of Planes; Archimedes’ ‘proof’ of law of the lever and Ernst Mach’s criticism of  it

24.  The ancient, so-called Method of Exhaustion

25.  A very few historical notes on a long period of time

26.  14th century developments in natural philosophy/science

27.  Some ‘mean-value’ theorems

28.  Selections from Oresme’s Le livre du ciel et du monde

29.  Summary/conclusion of Oresme’s Tractatus de commensurabilitate vel incommensurabilitate motuum caeli

30.  Grade distribution for midterm exam

31.  Some notes on Copernicus

32.  Extra credit problem—solution

33.  On the aftermath of Copernicanism

34.  Dates of adoption of Gregorian calendar

35.  On the use of stellar parallax

36.  The Tychonic model of the universe

37.  Some notes on Kepler

38.  Kepler’s (faulty) ‘derivation’ of his ‘2nd law’ (in the form that we now know it) from his (preferred) inverse-distance speed law

39.  Some notes on Galileo

40.  Excerpt from Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632); excerpt from Galileo’s Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences (1638).

41.  Some notes on Descartes

42.  Descartes’ vs. Newton’s Laws of Motion

42.  Huygens on the quantitative analysis of centrifugal force;  a refresher on the treatment of centripetal/centrifugal force in classical (‘Newtonian’) mechanics

43.  Some notes on Gassendi and Boyle and the ‘mechanical philosophy’

44.  Some notes on Newton

45.  Newton’s ‘laws’/axioms and 1st theorem from the Principia

46.  Newton on absolute space:  his bucket experiment;  Ernst Mach’s criticism of Newton’s bucket experiment

47.  Study guide for final examination