history of science dept.
university of oklahoma
Prof. Steven J. Livesey
phsc 618    tel: 405.325.6490





My courses at the University of Oklahoma have ranged from sophomore-level topics courses in the history of science to advanced graduate lecture courses and seminars in medieval and early modern science.  At every level, however, my central goal has been to integrate the specific issues in the history of science into more general historical issues of the period under consideration. I ask students to read and discuss primary sources that include political, literary, religious, philosophical and other texts, and my principal goal is to encourage them to see science historically from a somewhat broader perspective than modern popular wisdom suggests.

In Fall 1999, I taught History of Science 3823 ("Medieval Science") for the first time, although for many years I had taught a precursor of this at a more advanced undergraduate and graduate level.  Although this is still a survey course, with discussions of key developments of science in the period, we devoted half the semester to a reading of primary documents in various literatures.  In addition, because I am convinced that medieval science bore the indelible marks of the culture around it, we spent several sessions on institutions like the university, or on social and religious changes like the Investiture Contest, or a discussion of what the French refer to as "archéologie du livre": the constitution of the book as a historical artifact.

In Spring 2000, my graduate seminar focused on the literature of science in the Middle Ages.  The central question, the relationship between format and content, was explored through a discussion of some unlikely sources: encyclopedic literature, commentaries on Aristotle, Peter Lombard's Sentences and the Bible, quaestiones disputatae and de quolibet, sermon collections, logical texts, and florilegia.  For each, we looked at the interplay of author and reader, the context of writing and teaching, and the sometimes subtle ways that medieval scientific ideas crept into a wide variety of literature.  A somewhat condensed expression of this can be found in my essay "Scientific Writing in the Latin Middle Ages," in Thornton and Tully's Scientific Books, Libraries, and Collectors, edited by Andrew Hunter (Ashgate 2000).  I maintain a more expanded bibliography at www.ou.edu/class/med-sci.

Finally, I believe that writing is crucial to the process of learning.  I ask students to prepare several short essays, usually (but not always) focused on primary sources, both to introduce students to historical modes of presenting materials and to provide additional opportunities to present complete and rigorous arguments.  Frequently, these assignments are organized around a central theme, so that at different times in the semester, students have an opportunity to build upon their previous work.

mailing address
Professor Steven J. Livesey
University of Oklahoma
Department of the History of Science
601 Elm Avenue / Physical Sciences 622
Norman, OK 73019-0315