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Natural Science - Year I

Unit 16: Reviewing Historical Information

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History Weblecture for Unit 16


This Unit's Homework Page History Lecture Science Lecture Lab Parents' Notes

History Lecture for Unit 27: Writing about History and Science

For Class

Lecture outline:

How to review and prepare for an essay examination

Over the next two units, we will review the information we've studied, and ways to make sure we have the facts straight (objective information), and understand the relationships between different pieces of information — that is, between people and ideas (subjective information). We'll use an exam to determine how well you've managed to master the information and how well you can use it to support your own viewpoint on several key issues in science and its history.

One part of your exam will focus on the history topics we've covered: the development of scientific knowledge and scientific ways of thinking about the world from prehistoric times through to the rise Roman Empire. I will ask you to identify people or specific works drawn from the list below under "biographical information".

Biographical Information

Be sure that you can identify the following major contributors with their scientific theories, and explain the importance of certain non-scientific texts and artifacts to the history of science. For each person on this list, you should know roughly when they lived (which century), their nationality, their contribution to science, and their relationship to others on the list. For example, Aristotle was a pupil of Plato, and the teacher and partner of Theophrastus; he also drew on the discoveries of the Milesian materialists like Thales and the theories of Eudoxus and Empedocles in forming his world view.

Now is the time to review the introductory unit discussion of study methods, and practice them diligently as you review the materials in units 1-15.

Study suggestion for people: make a timeline table! Organize the entries in first-to-last order by dates. This will help you identify early philosophers whose ideas might influence those who came later.

Person or workPeriodLocationContribution and Importance of ContributionInfluence
Plato400 bceAthens, GreeceRecorded dialogs of Socrates; established Academy in Athens; set up theory of IdeasApproach to philosophy influenced classical/medieval authors, Christian outlook
Euclid300 bceAlexandria, EgyptWrote summary of geometry rules and methods of proofEuclid's geometry has been ever since (current); it influenced Ptolemy

Other ways to study this information: make flash cards, then have your parents or siblings drill you. Don't do this just once! Here's a two-week review plan. Do your review session once a day, and do not spend more than 20 minutes in review. The point here is to work on retaining information through frequent repetition.

  1. Day 1: Go through the flash cards, and put those you get right in one stack, those you get wrong in a second stack. Immediately review those you get wrong, but do not re-drill yourself. Focus on learning the missed information using the techniques outlined in the first unit for learning about people or terms. Add identifying details to the terms or people you missed.
  2. Day 2: Go through all the flash cards, and put those you get right in one stack, those you get wrong in a second stack. Immediately review those you get wrong.
  3. Day 3: Go through only the flash cards you missed the previous day, and put those you get right in one stack, those you get wrong in a second stack. Immediately review those you get wrong.
  4. Day 4: Go through only the flash cards you missed the previous day, and put those you get right in one stack, those you get wrong in a second stack. Immediately review those you get wrong.
  5. Day 5: REST!
  6. Day 6: Go through all the flash cards, and put those you get right in one stack, those you get wrong in a second stack. Review those you got wrong and add at least one identifying detail to each card. There should be very few of these by now.
  7. Day 7: REST!
  8. Week 2: Review your cards on two different days, separated by at least two days, e.g., days 1 and 4 or 2 and 5.

Write the assigned biographies for the Moodle Natural Science Glossary.

Test your knowledge with the Ancient Philosophers Crossword Puzzle in the Moodle!

Essay Topics to Review

The second part of the exam will ask you to put information together to draw conclusions about what happened, or why something that should logically have followed, didn't apparently happen.

The following are sample essay questions on historical topics we have covered, with some suggestions on how to tackle the topic. These are suggestions only; you might come up with something equally good. Just be sure to ground your claims in concrete examples drawn from the material we covered.

At least one question on the exam will be drawn from this list.

  1. Chose two different theories of matter from our studies of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, describe the theory, and show why those who held a later theory might have discarded the earlier one.
    • You might consider whether a particular theory could explain differences in phase (solid, liquid, gas) for a substance like water.
    • You might consider the difference in approach between the monists who thought all matter could be explained in terms of a single element, and those who thought matter occurred in several essentially different forms or elements.
    • You might consider whether the theory explained the motion of a given substance (earth, fire, water, air).
    • Think about the criteria we use for accepting a theory: does it describe all the phenomena? Is it complicated? Can we reduce the explanation to simple principles?
  2. What methods belong to the study of science?
    • What characterizes scientific ways of observing, gathering data, analyzing information, testing information, explaining or accepting explanations? How are these methods different from those used in studying history, literature, music, or art?
    • Are there subjects that these methods can't study? e.g., stars because they cannot be brought into a lab, poetry, ideas?
    • What kinds of data do scientists collect? How is this data different from other kinds of information we might collect?
  3. How did the theories of ancient astronomers account for the daily and annual motion of the sun, moon, and planets? What observations available to them did the theory not explain?
    • Can a simple concentric sphere model would account for both daily motion (east to west) and annual motion (mostly west to east)?
    • How did the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks like Aristotle and Eudoxus, and Hellenists like Ptolemy account for retrograde motion?
    • How did these account for changes in size brightness of the planets?
  4. What is the "Great Chain of Being"? How does this concept connect living and non-living matter? How did it help Aristotle organize natural objects into a hierarchy for study?
    • What characteristics did Aristotle use to distinguish between living and non-living matter?
    • What characteristics did he use to identify and classify living organisms (based on your reading of the Parts of Animals)?
    • Since Theophrastus followed Aristotle's ideas, you could also use examples from his classification of plants.
    • Note that this is a question about the historical theories Aristotle put forth; be careful not to confuse those with modern theories!
  5. Archimedes and Hero proposed many uses for simple machines. Why weren't these ideas adopted by Greek and Roman societies?
    • Consider the cost of making machines to do real work, especially if another source of work were available (servant and slave labor).
    • Consider the problems in making large-scale machines: did the ancient engineers have materials strong enough, and tools precise enough, to craft machines capable of effective work?
    • Compare Hero's "toys" with the engines that Archimedes is supposed to have made to defend Syracuse.

Study/Discussion Questions

Further Study/On Your Own