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Unit of study_

HPSC2100: The Birth of Modern Science

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.


Academic unit History and Philosophy of Science Academic Operations
Unit code HPSC2100
Unit name The Birth of Modern Science
Session, year
Semester 1, 2022
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Remote
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

12 cp from (1000-level units or 2000-level units)
Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Cindy Hodoba Eric,
Administrative staff Unit of Study Co-Ordinator and Lecturer Cindy Hodoba Eric | Tutors Eloise Baker | Zain El-Roubaei | James Ley | Consultation Hours (online) By appointment. Email either the unit of study co-ordinator or your tutor to arrange a date and time for a Zoom session. Please note that tutors may decline consultation requests.
Type Description Weight Due Length
Tutorial quiz Component 1: Knowledge and understanding
Online quizzes
30% Multiple weeks 15-20 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2
Assignment Component 2: Critical skills
Questions due online
28% Multiple weeks See canvas for details
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Assignment Component 3: Writing skills
Total of three short essays
30% Multiple weeks 1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Participation Component 4: Engagement and participation
Tutorials, and online activities - see Canvas for details
12% Ongoing 40 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
  • Component 1: Knowledge and understanding: 30% of the assessment for this unit of study will be based on weekly online quizzes (a mixture of multiple choice and short answers).  
  • Component 2: Critical skills: 30% of the assessment involves the weekly submission of short (maximum 150 words), well-formulated answers to the assigned questions regarding the primary texts provided on the website.  Late submissions are not accepted for this assessment, and it is not eligible for extension.
  • Component 3: Writing skills: 30% of the assessment for this unit of study will be based on the grades of 750 words each.
  • Component 4: Engagement and participation: 10% of the assessment is based on active engagement in the weekly tutorials.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The following criteria are specific to HPSC2100. Marks may be scaled to fit grade distributions; please note that all grades on returned work are ‘raw’ marks.

The section that follows indicates broadly the qualitative judgements implied by the various marks which are awarded. A more precise evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of individual components will be provided in examiners’ comments/feedback.

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2021.

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

Result Name

Mark Range


High Distinction

85 - 100

High Distinction (85+):

  • Indicates that assignments are consistently of an exceptional standard, and exhibit considerable initiative and ingenuity in research and reading.
  • Demonstrates the ability to formulate innovative interpretations and arguments including insightful contributions to theoretical debates; and the ability to develop abstract or theoretical arguments based on detailed research and original interpretation. 
  • Your academic writing must be characterised by a high degree of creativity, scholarly style, and critical analysis. 


75 - 84

Distinction (75-84): 

  • Demonstrates initiative in research and reading. 
  • Indicates a complex understanding and original, creative, critical analysis of the subject matter and its context; and takes 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 academic writing is characterised by scholarly style, clarity, and some creativity. 


65 - 74

Credit (65-74):

  • Indicates 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

(Low) Pass (50-57): 

  • Indicates poor understanding of the UoS material and a lack of progress and intellectual development in the depth and sophistication of your submitted assignments, activities, and quiz results. 

(High) Pass (58-64): 

  • Indicates some understanding of the UoS material and some development of your interpretative and argumentative skills. 
  • This mark, however, still indicates a minimal engagement in the course material and the readings and little development and progress in the intellectual skills required to interpret them. 


0 - 49

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 Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism); 
    • irrelevance of content; 
    • careless or sloppy presentation, grammar and punctuation, or argument structure such that it is difficult to understand the claims being made; 
    • evidence of inadequate knowledge or understanding of readings or lectures; 
    • late submission without extension via the Faculty special consideration procedure (see Special Consideration and Special Arrangement Policies). 

For more information see

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.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

5% per day for Component 3

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic honesty, academic dishonesty, 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 dishonesty or plagiarism seriously.

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

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction - cathedrals Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 02 Greek thought Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 03 The birth of astronomy Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 04 Medieval learning Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 05 Medieval learning Tutorial (1 hr) LO2
Week 06 The seeds of revolution Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 07 Magic Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 08 The moving Earth Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 09 The moving Earth Tutorial (1 hr) LO2
Week 10 Medicine and the body Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 11 The new science Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 12 Science's cathedral Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 13 Science's cathedral Tutorial (1 hr) LO2

Attendance and class requirements

  • As per Science Undergraduate Handbook 2022, students must attend at least 80% of all required learning activties.


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.

Required readings

Course Materials


Ofer Gal, Orgins of Modern Science (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Available in the Reading List on Canvas (e-textbook), in Fisher Library's Short Loan section (check the Reading List on Canvas or the library catalogue), and for purchase from Gleebooks (print form) or online (for example, Amazon), either in print or Kindle.

Primary source readings:

All texts are available on Canvas (mostly as scanned PDFs).

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


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