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Unit of study_

HPSC2100: The Birth of Modern Science

Intensive February, 2021 [Block mode] - Remote

Modern culture is a culture of science and modern science is the outcome of a historical process of 2,500 years. In this course we investigate how traditional knowledge gradually acquired the characteristics of 'science': the social structure, contents, values and procedures we are familiar with. We will look at some primary chapters of this process, from antiquity to the end of the seventeenth century, and try to understand their implications to understanding contemporary science in its culture.

Unit details and rules

Unit code HPSC2100
Academic unit History and Philosophy of Science Academic Operations
Credit points 6
12 cp from (PHIL1XXX or HSTY1XXX or HPSC1XXX or ANTH1XXX)
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Laura Sumrall,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Component 3: Writing Skills
Short essays
30% Multiple weeks 750 words each
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3
Participation Component 4: Engagement Participation
Tutorial participation
10% Ongoing 1 hour each week
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Tutorial quiz Component 1: Knowledge and Understanding
Online quizzes
30% Weekly 15-20 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2
Assignment Component 2: Critical Skills
Responses to homework questions
30% Weekly 150 words each
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO1

Assessment summary

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

For a High Distinction (85+), you must do everything required for a distinction, plus submit work that is consistently of an exceptional standard; exhibit considerable initiative and ingenuity in research and reading; provide innovative interpretations and arguments including insightful contributions to theoretical debates; and develop abstract or theoretical arguments based on 10 detailed research and original interpretation. Your written work must be characterised by a high degree of creativity, scholarly style, and precision.


75 - 84

For a Distinction (75-84), you must do everything required for a credit, plus demonstrate initiative in research and reading; show a complex understanding and original, creative analysis of the subject matter and its context; and take a critical stance in relation to the underlying assumptions in the field as well as the theoretical arguments and their interpretations associated with the course topics. Your written work and class participation must be properly documented, and writing is characterised by scholarly style, clarity, and some creativity.


65 - 74

For a Credit (65-74), you must do everything required for a high pass, plus show significant command of the course material and genuine interest in the readings and appreciation of the challenges they present. A low (65-69) credit indicates competent work, demonstrating the potential to pursue honours work, though further development would be needed to do so successfully; a high (70-74) credit demonstrates a clear capacity to pursue honours.


50 - 64

For a (Low) Pass (50-57), you must complete at least 2 tests, submit at least 4 acceptable questions and participate in at least 8 tutorials. This grade, however, indicates poor understanding of the material covered in class and lack of progress in the depth and sophistication of your submitted questions.

For a (High) Pass (58-64), you must do everything required for a low pass, plus submit most of the questions, show some understanding of the material covered in class and some development of your interpretative and argumentative skills. This grade, however, still indicates a minimal engagement in the course material and the readings and little progress in the skills required to interpret them


0 - 49

Mark of a Fail (below 50) indicates that your work is not of acceptable standard overall, and/or you have failed to achieve a 50% in some component of the UOS. You may receive a fail for a particular assessment for any or all of the following reasons: unacceptable levels of paraphrasing or lack of citation (see also the policy on Academic Honesty); irrelevance of content; careless or sloppy presentation, grammar, or argument structure such that it is difficult to understand the claims being made; evidence of inadequate knowledge or understanding of readings or lectures; or late submission without extension via the Faculty special considerations procedure.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction and Historiography Block teaching (2 hr) LO3
Ancient Greek Philosophy Block teaching (4 hr) LO1 LO3
Week 02 Ancient Astronomy Block teaching (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Decline of Greek Science Block teaching (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Medieval Learning Block teaching (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Week 03 Renaissance Humanism Block teaching (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Revolution in Astronomy Block teaching (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Anti-Aristotelian Physics Block teaching (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Week 04 Mechanical Philosophy Block teaching (4 hr) LO1 LO3
Natural Magic Block teaching (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Week 05 Medicine and the Body Block teaching (4 hr) LO1 LO3
Knowledge and Society Block teaching (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Week 06 Experimental Philosophy Block teaching (4 hr) LO1 LO3
Scientific Utopia Block teaching (2 hr) LO1 LO3

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Identify and discuss some major chapters in the history of science from antiquity through the scientific revolution
  • LO2. Read and try to interpret primary historical material from these periods (in English translation)
  • LO3. Appreciate and discuss some of the particular philosophical and methodological challenges involved in the historiography of science.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.