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Unit of study_

HPSC3016: The Scientific Revolution

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

Modern Western science has a number of characteristics that distinguish it from other scientific cultures. It ascribes its tremendous success to sophisticated experiments and meticulous observation. It understands the universe in terms of tiny particles in motion and the forces between them. It is characterised by high- powered mathematical theorising and the rejection of any intention, value or purpose in Nature. Many of these characteristics were shaped in the 17th century, during the so-called scientific revolution. We will consider them from an integrated historical- philosophical perspective, paying special attention to the intellectual motivations of the canonical figures of this revolution and the cultural context in which they operated. Topics will include: experimentation and instrumentation, clocks, mechanistic philosophy, and the changing role of mathematics.

Unit details and rules

Unit code HPSC3016
Academic unit History and Philosophy of Science Academic Operations
Credit points 6
(HPSC2100 or HPSC2900) and (HPSC1001 or HPSC1901 or HPSC2101 or HPSC2901)
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Ofer Gal,
Tutor(s) Cindy Hodoba Eric,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Presentation group assignment Experiment replication
10% - To be added by the unit coordinator
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Assignment Research paper
Written assessment
30% Multiple weeks 3500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Participation Attendance and participation
Class discussion and preparation
30% Weekly To be added by the unit coordinator
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Small test Reading assignments
Short questions
30% Weekly 150 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

  • Attendance and participation: Participation is marked on the basis of class discussions and preparedness.
  • Reading assignments: This will be assessed on the basis of well-formulated short questions regarding the assigned primary texts for the Thursday tutorial of each week.
  • Experiment replication: This assessment will be based on a group replication of an early modern experiment in a demonstration presented to the class.
  • Research paper: The assessment is comprised of the submission of a research questions, an annotated bibliography followed by a presentation, and a final paper.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

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



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

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 Instructed Reading: Priestley’s letter Pedagogical issues: • Readings • Submission of questions • Essay writing Tutorial (2 hr)  
Rationality vs Revolution The scientific revolution: main even Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 02 The scientific revolution: Interpretations Tutorial (2 hr)  
Mechanics before Galileo: Levers and projectiles Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 03 Galileo’s criticism of Aristotle and traditional mechanics Tutorial (2 hr)  
Galileo’s mechanics: The way to the law of fall Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 04 Reading Exercise: unseen passage (Kepler’s Mysterium) Tutorial (2 hr)  
Kepler’s Optics vs Traditional Optics Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 05 Deciphering a painting Tutorial (2 hr)  
Perspectiva: from Art to Science Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 06 Radical Instrumentalism Tutorial (2 hr)  
Knowledge and authority: experiments from Tartaglia to the Royal Society Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 07 The nay-sayers Tutorial (2 hr)  
The body Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 08 Hooke’s Experimental-instrumental philosophy Tutorial (2 hr)  
Hooke and Newton’s Optical Experiments Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 09 Discussion: Knowledge and Doubt Tutorial (2 hr)  
Knowledge and authority: institutions Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 10 Personal discussions: Essay Questions and Annotated Bibliographies Tutorial (2 hr)  
Descartes: from Passionate Epistemology to Mechanical Philosophy Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 11 Directed reading: Hooke’s ‘Address’ and Hooke-Newton Correspondence Tutorial (2 hr)  
The Curved Orbit Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 12 Replicating experiments. Tutorial (2 hr)  
Newton’s Celestial Mechanics Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 13 Final Presentations Tutorial (2 hr)  
Conclusion: Newton’s Scholia Lecture (2 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance mandatory.


No electronic devices allowed in class.

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 of the major chapters in the emergence of early modern science
  • LO2. discuss and assess the historical and philosophical concept of ‘scientific revolution’
  • LO3. critically assess the methodological and philosophical merits of some approaches to this period
  • LO4. recognise, read and interpret primary historical material from this period in english translation.

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.


Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances 

  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory 

  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories 

  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door 

  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory 

As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


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.