Great Scientists

Ref: C2342642

For most of us what knowledge we have of matters scientific is likely to have been gained from school. It may seem dull - even boring - a collection of hazily recalled facts and tables. Yet all such knowledge was originally wrested from nature by real, live human beings, trying to live their lives amid times of change, war, death and hardship. This course aims to look behind the bare facts and figures into the times and lives of those involved. We get to see the social life of London at the time of Newton, to understand the hurdles to women following an academic career both in Europe,the UK and the US, and to see how, for many of these famous researchers, life was tinged with the deaths of children and loved ones, religious discrimination, displacement, etc.. I have run this course for several years now and Student Feedback has been nicely positive e.g. that I managed to keep a good balance between the science, the biographical details and social details.

Course aim

To set the lives and discoveries of 'Great Scientists' in the social, political and cultural context of their times, with special reference to the discrimination faced by women in science.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is for beginners
  • This course is intended for the interested lay-person. Whilst no specific science back-ground is necessary, a general thematic familiarity would undoubtedly be helpful. Terms like planet, star, solar system, atom etc., will be more or less assumed.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Give a broad account of some major scientific figures and their discoveries over the last 500 years. Such figures to include Faraday, Darwin, Curie, Kepler, Einstein and others.
  • Provide a description of the social, religious and political situation in which a variety of major figures worked.
  • Show an understanding of the motivation behind the different discoveries and how they fit into a broader social, cultural and historical perspective.
  • Show an understanding of what marks science as different from other human endeavours such as music, art or stamp collecting.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • Role-play by the tutor: Handouts for further perusal at home. Discussion & questions are integral to the course.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be asked to complete a 'Session Evaluation Form' at the end of each Session. As well as rating the tutorial on various heads you are asked to note two things you have learnt in the session.

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • Notebook and pen would clearly be useful. A curiosity and interest in knowing more would be an excellent starting point..

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • A general science awareness would help - atoms, planets, orbit, star, spectrum etc., but explanations and tutorial material will be given in each session. John Gribbin 'Science: a history' gives a readable account of many of the characters we will meet.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • There is a follow on course 'More Great Scientists and Their Discoveries' for those interested, as well as 'Topics in Modern Science' & 'More Topics in Modern Science'

Download full course information sheet

Great Scientists

Enrolment Conditions

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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