Computer Systems Engineering (3 Years) [BEng]

Science and the Modern World

Unit code: UCIL10221
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 1
Teaching period(s): Semester 1
Offered by Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)
Available as a free choice unit?: Y




Using a variety of examples from past and present, this unit explores the place of science in human affairs. By using a non-specialist vocabulary, it helps to understand why we trust scientists and where that reliance comes from historically. It invites to reflect critically on the methods scientific experts use and the influence they exercise in the modern world.

PLEASE NOTE that UCIL10221 is the 10-credit version of this unit. The unit is also available in a 20-credit version UCIL10721).



·        A variety of resources, from scientists’ writings to literature and film will thus be made available to introduce arts, humanities and science students to different ways of understanding science in the past and the present.

·        Through a variety of case studies showing scientists at work the course analyses their ambitions, successes and the controversies that their research engendered.

·        It will thus explore how science confronts politics, religion and culture more generally blending studies from a variety of disciplines including history, sociology of knowledge, politics, media and communication studies, and religion.


Teaching and learning methods

UCIL 10221 (10credits)

11 hour lectures

11 hour seminars

76 hours independent study


Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

·        Students will have an appreciation of the complexity of the modern sciences in the broad context of their historical development

·        Understand a range of ways of thinking about the sciences and contemporary society and the relationships between them

·        Be able to reflect critically on the role of the sciences in modern culture

·        Develop their communication and group-working skills.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

Employability Skills

  • Analytical skills: Essay-writing will entail the development of research and analytical skills.
  • Team working: Students will work together in the class towards completing specific exercises and assignments thus developing their team working skills.




Employability skills

  • Analytical skillsEssay-writing will entail the development of research and analytical skills.
  • Group/team workingStudents will work together in the class towards completing specific exercises and assignments thus developing their team working skills.

Assessment Further Information

Both lecture and seminar content are assessed by:

  • 1000 word essay (50% of overall mark)
  • 2hour exam (50% of overall mark)


Topics covered in previous years include:


  • ·        What is Science? An Introduction to the course
  • ·        Who should we trust? The authority of science
  • ·        “This statement is false” is false: truth and method
  • ·        C.U.D.O.S.! Science and ideology.
  • ·        God or Nature? Looking at science and
  • ·        The path towards global warming: Discovering the environment 
  • ·        Show me the money! Science as a commodity
  • ·        Sexist? Science and Gender
  • ·        The Dark Side: War, Secrecy and Surveillance
  • ·        Non-Neutral or Post-Normal? Science and its critics

Recommended reading

  • Peter Bowler & Iwan Morus, Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  • Alan Chalmers, What is This Thing Called Science? Indianapolis: Hackett Publications, 1999
  • Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch, The Golem: What Everyone Should Know About Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998

Feedback methods

Students are encouraged to ask questions at any time during lectures and seminars. Teaching staff answers queries in the class and also by email or during office hours (contact details in the course handbook or at lectures). All submitted coursework will be returned with annotations and comments explaining the rationale for the marks given.


Study hours

  • Assessment written exam - 2 hours
  • Lectures - 11 hours
  • Seminars - 11 hours
  • Independent study hours - 76 hours

Teaching staff

Simone Turchetti - Unit coordinator

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