82680 - Gender and Social Studies of Science

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Docente: Paola Govoni
  • Credits: 12
  • SSD: M-STO/05
  • Language: Italian

Learning outcomes

The course addresses the interactions between science and society from an interdisciplinary perspective that integrates history with the social sciences. At the end of the course the students will have: - conducted an in-depth exploration of historical cases and contemporary data in order to understand the relationships between women, gender and science in different contexts; - learned to assess the sources and use th e critical tools to address independently these themes.

Course contents


This course is an introduction to the theme of the controversial and not always progressive interactions between the spread of education, technoscientific innovation and development in the Western world over the last three centuries.

The course employs the interdisciplinary approach characterizing a branch of historiography that has engaged in dialogue with Science and technology studies (STS) since the 1930s. This approach will be supplemented with a gender and science studies lens and with the insights offered by intersectional feminism.

After an introduction to the concept of sex/gender and STS, we will explore the history of relations between women and men in educational and research institutions. We will discuss the repercussions that these often asymmetrical relationships have had and still have in the social, economic, educational and scientific spheres.

With the aim of orienting ourselves in the real and virtual contexts in which we live, the course sets out from the data on current discrimination – in Bologna, Europe, and the world– and continues by journeying into the past to delve into girls’ educational choices and the professional status of women in science, technology and medicine between the 18th and the present.

These issues will be discussed in the context of the relationships between science and society, with the aim of navigating among the sources that can help us to understand what science is and how it works: this understanding is always essential, and even more so in pandemic situations such as the one we are currently experiencing.

As we move along this path, we will take as a guide a statement made by Richard Feynman (1918-1988), 1965 Nobel Prize winner in physics and former controversial contributor to the Manhattan Project. As Feynman once told school teachers: “As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” (What is Science?1969).


Lessons will start on 22 September:

Wednesday 9:15-11:00 (room A, via Centotrecento, 18)

Thursday 11:15-13:00 (room A, via Centotrecento, 18)

Friday: 9:15-11:00 (room D, via Centotrecento, 18)


Bachelor in Phylosophy (12 credits; 60H).


The following program is the same for attending and non attending students, including students of the Erasmus program.

1. David F. Noble, Un mondo senza donne. La cultura maschile della Chiesa e la scienza occidentale, Bollati Boringhieri, 1994: only pp. 9-60 and pp. 205-352.

2. On your choice: Massimo Mazzotti, Maria Gaetana Agnesi e il suo mondo. Una vita tra scienza e carità, Roma, Carocci, 2019 (1° ed. Baltimore, 2007), or Rebecca Messabarger, La signora anatomista. Vita e opere di Anna Morandi Manzolini, Bologna, il Mulino, 2020 (1° ed. Chicago 2010).

3. P. Govoni, Che cos’è la storia della scienza, Roma, Carocci, 2019 [new and enlarged ed.].

4. Texts and PowerPoints posted (during the course) on the e-learning platform.


Bachelor in Expert in Social and Cultural Education (8 credits; 48 H).


The following program is the same for attending and non attending students, including students of the Erasmus program.

1. Introduction (pp. 9-36), and essays by  Findlen  (pp. 63-95); Cavalli, Leonelli and  Tomasetto (pp. 142-174), in Eredi di Laura Bassi. Docenti e ricercatrici in Italia tra età moderna e presente, a cura di M. Cavazza, P. Govoni e T. Pironi, Milano, FrancoAngeli, 2014 [available at link].

2. P. Govoni, Che cos’è la storia della scienza, Roma, Carocci, 2019 [new and enlarged ed.].

3. L’avventura del progetto IRRESISTIBLE. Insegnanti, studenti ed esperti a confronto su temi di ricerca d’avanguardia e aspetti della Ricerca e Innovazione Responsabile, a cura di M. Venturi, Bononia University Press, Bologna, 2018 [available on the teaching platform].

4. Texts and PowerPoints posted (during the course) on the e-learning platform.

Teaching methods

Inquiry-based learning. An active participation is highly recommended.

Lectures will be alternated by one or two field trips.

1. To encourage the personal work and the discussion, those who attend can deepen - individually or in groups of two - a topic related to the course. With this work up to 5 points can be achieved.

2. At the end of the course, students who attended the lessons will be able to take a written pre-exam on class discussions and on the field experiences (up to a maximum of 5 points).

Assessment methods

Oral exam: this consists of three questions, stemming from a freely chosen topic.

Students will be tested on their knowledge of the course’s bibliography, as well as on their ability to reason in a logical, concise and personal way. The accuracy and precision of the student’s way of expression will also be taken in consideration.

For further information, please consult at Regolamento didattico.

Teaching tools

PowerPoint; e-learning tools; science museums.

Office hours

See the website of Paola Govoni


Gender equality Reduced inequalities Responsible consumption and production Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.