HoST Fall 2011

Week of 11/1-11/3

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Assignment 9




Updated: 11/1/11 1:25 PM


Expect quizzes on any and all of this material as it is assigned.

For Tuesday


Read about early gun powder in Bown pp. 1-49.  [This books reads really fast. Dont let the length of the assigned reading intimidate you.] You should own this book.  In case your copy is still stuck in the mail, here is the first reading.  I won't post the rest.  You need to get this: 

Bown_MostDamnableInventionChs1-2_100.pdf [4.2MB]



For Wednesday


Read Leigh PDF: pp. 6-7, 10-13 [technical details], 17-19 and pp. 23-53 (skip 45-50)  -33pp.


Leigh_WorldsG-estFix-Chs1-2-8.2MB.pdf  [High resolution version]


Leigh_WorldsG-estFix-Chs1-2-100dpi-4.5MB.pdf  [Low resolution version]

For Thursday


Read Lucretius Book VI, up to line 640.  That's the end of Lucretius for us.


Citations for the above readings and audio:


Bown, Stephen R. A Most Damnable Invention : Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World. 1st ed. New York: T. Dunne Books, 2005.  This book is a bit shaky on some of the older history, but it is easy to read and has lots of fun details of interest.  It really hits its stride in the 19th-century parts, which we will probably read later in the term.


Leigh, G. J. The World's Greatest Fix: A History of Nitrogen and Agriculture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.  This book is probably the best history book of this reading set.  As a result it is slightly dryer, but its information is pretty solid except for some of the early alchemical observations.



Essay assignment for this week. I'll post additional sources over the weekend.


Short Essay Option: Write an approx. 600 word, single-spaced essay (about 1 full page of single-spaced text).



The Long Essay option is essentially the same as the short essay but should be about 1200 words long (about 2 full pages of single-spaced text) and must incorporate one or more of the following additional materials: [You may suggest other readings to me if you have something in mind, but they must be credible sources.]


Long essay additional sources:

- Bragg, Melvyn. "Alchemy." In In Our Time, 45 minutes. London: BBC, 2005. IOT_ Alchemy.mp3

-Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Alchemy, the ancient science of transformations. The most famous alchemical text is the Emerald Tablet, written around 500BC and attributed to the mythical Egyptian figure of Hermes Trismegistus. Among its twelve lines are the essential words - as above, so below". They capture the essence of alchemy, that the heavens mirror the earth and that all things correspond to one another. Alchemy was taken up by some of the most extraordinary people in our intellectual development, including Roger Bacon, Paracelsus, the father of chemistry, Robert Boyle, and, most famously, Isaac Newton, who wrote more about alchemy than he did about physics. It is now contended that it was Newtons studies into alchemy which gave him the fundamental insight into the famous three laws of motion and gravity. With Peter Forshaw, Lecturer in Renaissance Philosophies at Birkbeck, University of London, Lauren Kassell, Lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, Stephen Pumfrey, Senior Lecturer in the History of Science at the University of Lancaster.


Kahn, David. "Secrets of Nature : Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe." In Secrets of Nature : Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe, ed. William R. Newman and Anthony Grafton, ?-?? Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001. Kahn-Newman-Grafton-Rosicrucian_Hoax-9.7MB.pdf


Newman, William R. "From Alchemy To "Chymistry"." In The Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Science (1490-1730), ed. Katharine Park and Lorraine Daston, vol. 3, 497-517. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Newman_FromAlchemyToChemCh21-4.5MB.pdf


Mauskopf, Seymour H. "Gunpowder and the Chemical Revolution." Osiris 4 (1988): 93-118.  Mauskopf-GunpowderChemRev.pdf




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