In the mid 20th century, science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov envisioned the world in 2029 filled with complex and autonomous machines, capable of caring for children and engaging in interplanetary travel, mining, and political and military action. In contrast to this fictional world, how and why did the real inventors of computers, cybernetics, and robotic machinery create these technologies? What future(s) did they imagine for their inventions, and how did they understand the relationship between humans and machines? Did they envision an Asimovian future or something completely different? Did these technologies challenge them to re-think what it means to be human? Why or why not? In this course, students investigate the history of these fields to develop a better understanding of technology, society, and values in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Cosmology is the attempt to understand what the whole universe is, how the universe came into being, and what forms or structures organize it. Cosmology had its origins in myth, but soon incorporated elements of astronomy, physics, and philosophy. This course is a study of cosmological thought in its historical and cultural context, from the cosmologies of the ancient and medieval worlds to twentieth-century cosmology. Throughout, the course stresses not only the scientific content of the various cosmologies that have contended for primacy, but also their historical origins and their philosophical implications.


This course analyzes the interrelationship between scientific and technological innovation and the changing nature and scope of warfare in their socio-political and economic context from the 16th to the 21st century. The course is organized chronologically and topically to include the following: the professionalization of war and the military revolution of the 16th-17th centuries, the industrialization and mechanization of warfare in the 19th-20th centuries, the evolution of total war and the balance of nuclear terror in the age of the superpowers, and the technetronic and asymmetrical warfare of the 21st century.

This course examines the history of ideas about race in biology since the eighteenth century. Students study how and why knowledge about race has been constructed and used in particular contexts, and, in doing so, examine the complex relationship between science and society.

Knowledge, Identity, and Power

Although inventors in different countries and time periods contributed to the invention of the automobile, the car remains a symbol of American engineering and technological prowess, personal independence, adulthood, and social status. This course examines the intellectual and social history of the automobile in the United States and abroad. By analyzing cars as products of a large technological system, including, for example, tire manufacture, oil and gas production, road construction, gas stations, and a variety of other ancillary industries, this class investigates the social, economic, environmental, and cultural impacts of the automobile.

This seminar is required of all majors and minors in STS, but is also open to all students interested in the relationships between science, technology and society. Students study various approaches developed by historians, sociologists and philosophers of science and technology. The methods and approaches learned in this course provide a foundation for the STS Senior Seminar, in which students complete a substantial research project on a topic of their choice. For non-majors, the course offers an overview of how and why scholars have studied science and technology in different ways, and also provides an opportunity to practice thinking, talking and writing about science beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries.

STS 201 or STS 202 or permission of STS Director.

During World War I, teams of chemists, engineers, and military leaders in Germany, France, the United States and elsewhere worked to prepare chemical weapons that could be deployed on battlefields. The field use of chemical weapons proved to be difficult and unreliable so they were little used as combat weapons in World War II, though related chemicals were key tools of the Nazi holocaust. Chemical weapons have also been deployed often in smaller conflicts, including very recently. If the first world war was the chemists' war, the second was the physicists' and led to the development and use of nuclear weapons. Fortunately, there has not yet been a biologists' war, although germ warfare has been an active area of research by national governments. In the period after World War II, international efforts at controlling weapons of mass destruction, preventing their proliferation to other nations, and protecting stockpiles from falling into unauthorized hands has proved to be difficult and complicated. In this course students become familiar with the history of weapons of mass destruction and analyze humanitarian, political, and geopolitical arguments about their development and possible use. Students also learn to evaluate strategies for their control.

This course considers the ethical, political, and philosophical questions that are being raised today by rapid advances in biotechnology'especially in genetic engineering, neuropharmacology, brain science, and cybernetics . For example: Is there an important distinction between the therapeutic and enhancement uses of biotechnology? Is there a human nature and can/should it be transcended? Should humans take control of their own evolution? What is the human self/agent and how is it related to brain chemistry? What is wrong with performance enhancers like steroids? Is there a difference between natural and artificial intelligence? How far can/should the human brain be interfaced with computers? Is the radical extension of human life desirable? Is human cloning immoral? Should parents design their children? Are humans now usurping the role of God or nature? Should humans aim to enhance and perfect their bodies and minds? Is the goal of human enhancement compatible with egalitarianism? Should human enhancement be left up to market forces or must it be regulated by the state? Should humans shape the lives of future generations according to present values?

Credit will not be granted to students who have received credit for PHIL 102, CONN 312, or SSI1 173.

In this course students learn about "big issues" confronting the relationship between STEM fields, society, and justice today, while learning about curriculum and lesson plan design. They then design a complete teaching module on an issue of their choice concerning fairness and justice connected with STEM disciplines (to be implemented by the STS Program, in consultation with the students, in the Fall). In doing so students learn about, reflect upon, and implement strategies for communicating themes, problems, and issues concerning the place of STEM in society and the influence of society on STEM knowledge, practices and fields.

STS major of junior or senior standing.

This seminar is required of all majors and minors in STS, and is offered in the Fall of each year. It is a practicum in the research methods of Science, Technology, and Society in which students work closely with the instructor to develop a familiarity with research sources and strategies. Students become familiar with the history and development of the STS disciplines and with a range of research approaches that are open to them for their own work. Students formulate major research proposals, complete a substantial research paper, and make oral presentations of their work. Students who write a thesis in the Spring of the Senior year generally use their STS 490 project as a springboard.

STS 201 and 202.

Students in this course build on research completed in STS 490 Senior Seminar to complete an extensive research project on an STS topic . Note that achievement of a B+ or higher in STS 490 is required to register for STS 492.

STS 490 and permission of instructor.