73090 - History of the Scientific Thought (2) (LM)

Course Unit Page


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

Quality education Reduced inequalities Climate Action

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The aim of the course is to improve further one's critical skills to: interpret both primary and secondary sources in the history of science by placing them within its intellectual, social, political and institutional contexts; acquire the ability to research a topic or a paper and locate relevant sources both in an archive or in a library; familiarise yourself with different formats of oral delivery (lecture, class discussion, paper); familiarise yourself with different written outputs (reviews, critical notes, articles, essays) in support of the final dissertation.  

Course contents

Unruly Nature: Understanding natural disasters from antiquity to the early modern period

When and where (Period III): 

Lunedi 15-17 (aula A, Via Centotrecento); Mercoledi 11-13 (aula A, Via Centotrecento); Venerdi 11-13 (aula D, Via Zamboni 34)

First class: 28/1/2019


The exam will focus on the following primary sources:

Aristotele, Meteorologia (edizione con introduzione di L. Pepe), Libri 1-2

Seneca, Questiones naturales (qualsiasi edizione), Libri 3 e 6

Lucrezio, De rerum natura (qualsiasi edizione), Libro 6 (*facoltativo*)

as well as discussion of one of the following books:

Cocco, S., Watching Vesuvius: A History of Science and Culture in Early Modern Italy (Chicago and London, 2012).

Martin, C., Renaissance Meteorology: Pomponazzi to Descartes (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011) disponibile in e-book in SBN Ubo

Taub, Liba, Ancient Meteorology (London and New York: Routledge, 2003) disponibile in e-book in SBN Ubo.

and one essay chosen by the student among the following texts according to their interests:

Disaster, Death and the Emotions in the Shadow of the Apocalypse, 1400–1700, Jennifer Spinks and Charles Zika eds. (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)

Disaster Narratives in Early Modern Naples, a cura di D. Cecere, C. De Caprio, L. Gianfrancesco, P. Palmieri (Roma: Viella, 2018)

Seneca e le Scienze Naturali, a cura di M. Beretta, F. Citti, L. Pasetti (Firenze: Olschki, 2012)

Walker, C. F., Shaky Colonialism: The 1746 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru, and Its Long Aftermath (Durham, N. C.: Duke University Press, 2008).

Wounded Cities: The Representation of Urban Disasters in European Art (14th-20thCenturies), a cura di M. Folin and M. Preti (Leiden, Brill: 2015)

Teaching methods

The course will be delivered as a seminar. A brief lecture by the professor will be followed by discussion on the primary and secondary sources assigned for every class. Students' preparation and participation in class discussion are crucial to the success of the course.

Assessment methods

The course aims to meet the following objectives:

-to demonstrate adequate knowledge of the main aspects of the course;

-to demonstrate the ability to approach critically both the primary and the secondary sources so as to situate the primary sources within the historiographic debate that emerged over time;

-to demonstrate the ability to elaborate a coherent and organic analysis both in writing and orally around a specific theme, aspect, or question (both textual and historiographical), with the aim of reaching some original conclusions based on the evidence in the text(s);

The exam will consist of a presentation and discussion of a short essay on issues revolving around one or more texts assigned in class. 

The criteria adopted for an evaluation of the candidate and their work are the following:

1. familiarity with the content of the texts;

2. the ability to understand and analyse the texts;

3. the ability to construct an argument and use evidence appropriately to support it both in writing and orally.

The exam consists in an essay and an oral interview aimed at assessing the methodological and critical skills acquired during the semester. The examination will focus both on the student's command of both the primary and the secondary literature. The student will be invited to discuss the texts covered during the course and to contextualise them in their historical period. Top marks (28-30) will be given to students who demonstrate thorough knowledge of the material discussed in class and contained in the texts, critical and analytical skills, and the ability to express ideas and concepts clearly and cogently. Those students who will demonstrate good knowledge of the material but tend to repeat it mechanically rather than demonstrate full understanding and the ability to build connections and present an argument will be rewarded with average to high marks (23-27). Students who demonstrate superficial knowledge, gaps in preparation, poor critical and analytical skills, and difficulties of expression will receive average to low marks (18-22). Severe lacunae in one or more areas listed above could lead to the student repeating the exam.


Teaching tools

Slides; source packs; web links.

Office hours

See the website of Monica Azzolini