Great Scientific Ideas That Changed the World : The Great Courses: History of Science

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Steven L. Goldman
  • Series: The Great Courses: History of Science
  • 17 hrs and 56 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

What is the greatest scientific idea of all? Because science has so dramatically altered how we live and how we think about ourselves, the answer may well be the very idea of science itself, because - just like science's most important achievements - it, too, needed to be thought about, perfected, and invented. This 36-lecture series explores the ideas that have helped form the foundation of modern life - when society has been willing to pursue them. The lectures interpret the term "scientific idea" broadly, to include the ideas that made science possible at all, as well as the ideas that make it so immensely powerful. The result will be new insights into how science shapes society, as well as the way in which society, in turn, affects the directions taken by science.
You'll learn that there is no sharp distinction between ideas that are classified as scientific and those that are classified as philosophical or mathematical, or even between scientific ideas and political, religious, or aesthetic ideas. And how for 200 years, it has been the interaction of science and technology with society that has been the primary driver of social and cultural change, first in the West, then globally, and at an accelerating rate, affecting social and personal values and relationships; social, political, and economic institutions; and cultural values and activities in ways beyond anything our great-grandparents (or sometimes even parents) would recognize.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Great erudition, rapidly presented. Will need several revisits to fully absorb its wide ranging content. Would love access to the written transcript for more detailed study.
Neil Brightwell
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- Neil Brightwell

This opens a door, but will you walk through it?

Professor Goldman’s collegiate vocabulary, as well as his scientific, technological, and historic knowledge, and the manner he emphasizes certain important themes result in a very enjoyable set of lectures that kept me company over the course of a few weeks’ worth of commutes.
Professor Goldman’s work here, the fruit of obvious years' scholarship, cannot be compared to anything I’ve ever read or heard from any other author or professor.
The scientific literacy of Professor Goldman is deep in most areas and unbelievably broad. It is obvious that his not merely summarizing the summaries of science he has read elsewhere, but has delved deeply and thought about the implications of many specialized areas of science, and also how to explain the ramifications to an audience who may not be technical. I highly recommend this book for any student pursuing a BS, MS, or Ph.D. in the sciences--you will obtain a valuable perspective as your knowledge becomes more focuses on one specialty. Even if you are from the liberal arts, this great course will provide a more technical yet not overly technical perspective than you might find in another course.
While professor Goldman is technically a humanities/philosophy professor, his understanding of not only the philosophy of science, but the scientific methods, as well as scientific milestones throughout history and their significance, is much deeper than you might expect.
Very even handed in his narrative, professor Goldman does not shy away from the occasional controversy, for example, within science, and also sometimes between science and culture or science and religion. He does present all sides of the argument, without taking sides.
Lastly, while not explicitly, nor even implicitly as far as I could discern, an area of focus of this course, the role of western civilization in the development of science and technology is presented in a non-political manner. This course is neither politically correct, nor politically incorrect--it merely covers the topic at hand in an even handed and non-controversial manner.
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- Mike Morgan "Mike"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses