The Development of American Science

Spring 2014

HIUS 3401

The Development of American Science

Karen Parshall

This course traces the development of American science from the ideas of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others in the late colonial period through the mid-twentieth century and the development of the atomic bomb during the course of World War II.  It will focus on such issues as the role of science in the early Republic, the relationship of science to both the antebellum college and the modern university, the interplay between science and the state and federal governments, the mobilization of science in times of war, the formation of a scientific profession, the role of women in science, and the popular perception of science in America. 


Designed for students with no prior training in either history or science, this lecture/discussion course will satisfy the “Second Writing Requirement.” Students will write one short paper (5-7 pages), one 3-4-page research prospectus, and one major paper (12-15 pages).  Readings average 125 pages a week and are drawn from the following:


  • A course packet of selected primary and secondary source materials
  • Robert V. Bruce, The Launching of Modern American Science, 1846-1876
  • A Hunter Dupree, Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities
  • Margaret Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 
  • Gregory Benford, Timescape



Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
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Charlottesville, VA 22904

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