New Course: Innovation, Science, and Galileo

A new course, “Innovation, Science, and Galileo,” will be taught during Fall 2014 by Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Professor of Physics Christopher White and Visiting Assistant Professor Carolyn Purnell. It is an interdisciplinary course, emphasizing both modern physics and the science of the 16th century.

This course will meet once a week from 5-7:40 pm on Tuesdays and it is taught in the Lewis College of Human Sciences as LCHS 0285-02. There are no prerequisites.

Over the last 450 years, Galileo Galilei earned several titles including “father of modern physics,” “father of modern observational astronomy,” and even in some circles, the rather lofty title, “the father of modern science.” His legacy of championing heliocentrism and his reputation for taking on the Catholic Church are well known, and he often figures centrally in narratives about the progress of science and the triumph of science over religion. Yet, as with the heroes of many myths, this popular portrait is a reductive one. This course will seek to put Galileo’s findings, achievements, and failures into perspective, offering a more robust version of historical science. Yet the purpose of this course is not only to nuance the historical picture, but also to give students interested in physics a truer sense of the types of questions, approaches, and challenges offered by their discipline. Through a series of hands-on experiments and critical thinking exercises, students will be introduced to the science of the 16th and 17th centuries and learn how creative, analytical, and experiential approaches play a role in science today.

For more information or questions, email Carolyn Purnell at