Course Summary

The Story of Science 4 - Astronomy and the Behavioural Sciences since 1800

Unit 1: Astronomy Since 1800

Much has been discovered by astronomers since 1800. The unit starts with a description of the nature of modern astronomy and the measurement of astronomical distances. Current knowledge of the solar system is then outlined with respect to the planets, asteroids, comets and meteoroids. The stars are then described, including the different kinds of stars and their pattern of evolution, with a brief reference to dark matter and black holes which are described in more detail in the next unit.

Unit 2: Galaxies And The Universe

This unit is about galaxies, the nature of the universe and the methodology of astronomy. It includes the different kinds of galaxies and also the origin and nature of cosmic radiation. Evidence for the big bang origin of the universe is given together with details of what is believed to have happened leading to the formation of matter, stars and galaxies and what may happen in the future. The unit closes with an account of the various modern techniques now used by astronomers and the many different kinds of telescopes and other instruments now available to them.

Unit 3: The Behavioural Sciences Since 1800

Prior to 1800 much of the thinking underlying the development of economics, sociology and psychology was in place but there was still a long way to go. Human behaviour was regarded as superior to and distinctly separate from the behaviour of animals. The industrial revolution brought major social and economic changes, many to the disadvantage of the working people. The need for social reform led to desirable changes and a new way of thinking about social behaviour.

Unit 4: The Oriental Renaissance And Romanticism

By the late 1700s, while America was thriving and the people were spared many of the problems affecting Europeans, thinking in Europe was concentrating on the humanities as a means of understanding human nature. The finding that Sanskrit was a language superior to both Greek and Latin led to a new approach. The first archaeological discoveries and the translation of cuneiform and hieroglyph inscriptions led to developments in both archaeology and anthropology. The Romantics introduced yet another approach, emphasizing the passion and creativity of the artist. Against this background and the social problems of the new industrial and capitalistic society, the first courses in economics and sociology emerged.

Unit 5: Statistics And Psychology

Diseases and epidemics in Europe led to the collection of masses of data, the examination of which created the need for better statistical methods. The main measures of modern statistical methods are described together with their early application to crime-solving and other social problems. An account is given of the early developments in psychology, including hypnotism, emphasis on the unconscious, and the development of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, analytical psychology and developmental psychology. Modernism emerged as a further attempt to understand human behaviour.

Unit 6: The Rise Of Nationalism

After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 the European countries developed their national characters and resources, in some cases establishing large empires. There was corresponding growth in universities in both Europe and America. American independence led to advances in thinking and a remarkable number of inventions. American thinkers took the lead in the behavioural sciences, adding to European advances in motivational theory and behaviourism.

Unit 7: Learning, Cognition And Intelligence

The idea that only Homo sapiens has intelligence and is capable of learning has been revised considerably in the light of studies of the behaviour of other animals. Learning theory developed initially as a response-to-stimulus phenomenon and much is now known about the role of nerve cells and the transmission of nerve impulses. Intelligence has yet to be fully described but advances in artificial intelligence have contributed to its understanding. Corresponding changes have taken place in thinking about religions, leading to the idea that morality has evolved and is a biological rather than a religious phenomenon.