Newton, Darwin, and Einstein

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Newton, Darwin, and Einstein
Humanities Course
Course CodeNEDE
Year Opened1998, 2018
Sites OfferedJHU
Previously OfferedCAR, CLN, LAN, TOW
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Course Description

From the CTY Summer Catalog (1999):

Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein were scientific geniuses whose ideas reformulated the basic scientific assumptions of their times. But they were much more than that—they initiated wholesale intellectual revolutions in the way that their contemporaries thought about the world. This course investigates how the modes of thought articulated by these individuals came to define the eras in which they lived. In a broader sense, it encourages students to think critically about the distinctions between traditional intellectual disciplines and to consider their interrelationships.

Students examine Newton's laws of the physical universe from the perspective of historians, considering them alongside the commitments to natural law and balanced government that appeared during the American and French revolutions as well as the proliferation of deism and other "rational" religions of the time. Students examine Darwin's evolution not only in relation to biology but also as the inspiration of 19th-century European imperialism, laissez-faire public policy, and formalist jurisprudence. Finally, students explore how the irrationality, unpredictability, and relativity of Einstein's physics affected the arts, sciences, and humanities.

From the CTY Course Catalog (2018):

From the spacebound efforts of Elon Musk and Richard Branson to the detection of gravitational waves by the Nobel Prize-winning physicists at LIGO, modern science owes its existence to Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein. Each great thinker initiated intellectual revolutions among their contemporaries that came to define the eras in which they lived. This course encourages students to consider the commonalities among these individuals, thinking critically about how each affected academic disciplines by overturning the traditional thought processes behind explorations of social and natural sciences.

In this course, students examine Newton’s laws of the physical universe, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, and Einstein’s widespread physics works from the perspective of historians. Students consider Newton’s works in the context of his commitment to theistic natural laws, the rise of balanced government, and the proliferation of deism and other “rational religions” of the Enlightenment. Students examine Darwin’s theory of natural selection not only in relation to biology but also as an inspiration for 19th-century European imperialist and racial beliefs, laissez-faire public policy, formalist jurisprudence, and modern amateur citizen scientists. Finally, students explore how the irrationality, unpredictability, and relativity of Einstein’s physics affects the arts, sciences, and humanities of his time and today.