Science Not Silence: Censorship and Secrecy from Copernicus to Climate Crisis

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Hannah Marcus (Department of the History of Science)
Freshman Seminar 51W 4 credits (spring term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

In April 2017, over a million people around the globe took to the streets to defend science in the face of declining public attention to scientific knowledge and increasing governmental neglect of scientific research. This seminar explores how and why religious, political, and social authorities try to control scientific knowledge. From the avian flu to 3-D printed weapons and from Galileo to the Guatemala syphilis experiments, we will wrestle with difficult questions like: Who speaks for science? Who decides what we know and how we recognize truth? How do societies create scientific ignorance? How have answers to these questions changed over time? And what does it mean to stake your life and reputation on the defense of scientific knowledge? In this seminar, we will investigate these questions using tools and tactics from the history of science. Focusing in particular on questions of censorship and secrecy from the Renaissance to the present, we will discuss groundbreaking social science scholarship, explore censored objects in the Harvard Libraries, visit local and national archives, and bring insights from the past to bear on our contemporary world. This seminar is designed to question how we know the world around us and illuminate the forces that stand between us and knowing more. 

See also: Spring 2021