Science and technology in western culture

Question 1.

The survey that was recently completed asked you to select what you thought were the top three engineering and scientific accomplishments of the 20th century. As you work through this course, you’ll be focused on various elements of science and technology and how they impacted the world. The choices came from the National Academy of Engineering’s list of Greatest Engineering Accomplishments of the 20th Century. Their rankings are below. However, for the purposes of this course, the question isn’t whether this class matched those rankings, but why you selected them and what does it mean to be a top accomplishment.

So, I pose the question here: What makes these accomplishments (or any scientific or technological accomplishments) significant?

Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century
from the National Academy of Engineering

  1. Electrification
  2. Automobile
  3. Airplane
  4. Water Supply and Distribution
  5. Agricultural Mechanization
  6. Electronics
  7. Radio and Television
  8. Computers
  9. Telephone
  10. Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
  11. Highways
  12. Spacecraft
  13. Internet
  14. Imaging
  15. Household Appliances
  16. Health Technologies
  17. Petroleum and Petrochemical Technologies
  18. Laser and Fiber Optics
  19. Nuclear Technologies
  20. High-performance Materials

If you are interested in more information, see the Greatest Achievements website where you’ll find links to the individual technologies along with a timeline.




Question 2.


As Whitehead put it, “the sixteenth century of our era saw the disruption of Western Christianity and the rise of modern science” (1925/1953, page 1). Why is this transition worthy of note? What were some of the disruptive elements of this transition? What were some of the ways that this can be viewed as a natural transition? Why is this viewed as a Western phenomenon?

As you work on this question, you might think about the origins of science. What was pre-scientific thinking? You might also think about the role of religion in promoting or curtailing the quest for and communication of knowledge.


Whitehead, Alfred North. 1925/1953. Science and the Modern World. Simon and Schuster.

During the module, you are expected to contribute a minimum of three responses that are of high academic caliber each week, providing your analysis of material that you clearly reference in the text of your posting (this means citing course and outside reading material, as appropriate). Please note that this is a minimum amount; you are encouraged to go beyond this amount. Note that not all of your postings must be at this level: sharing personal experiences relevant to the topic are encouraged, as long as you are also contributing postings of high academic quality.


Question 3.


What are some of the debatable issues related to the connections between Western and non-Western science and technology?

The purpose of this paper is to prepare you for the written assignments in the remainder of the course. It is designed to familiarize you with the kinds of thesis statements and source material that are expected in an upper level course. The suggested order for approaching this assignment is as follows:

  1. Review the course material and any other resources you might have easily available and choose an aspect of non-Western science and technology (an invention, type of technology, scientific theory or scientific discipline), with a focus on the period from the start of Western civilization through the Middle Ages.
  2. Using good quality academic sources (not encyclopedias and non-scholarly web sites), do some research on this aspect and connect it to features or elements of major institutions, economy, society, and/or culture of one or more countries or regions.
  3. Complete the following two parts of the assignment (to be submitted as one file):
    • Thesis sampler: You must create 3 analytic (arguable) thesis statements, and in 1-2 paragraphs for each statement, identify arguments that both support and contradict your position. This part of the submission is expected to be 1-2 pages. You are expected to cite the sources of the arguments in the text. See the Course Resources module for guidelines on creating analytic/arguable thesis statements.
    • Annotated bibliography: You must also submit an annotated bibliography of at least 10 resources that relate to your exploration (including all that you used in the thesis sampler). The annotations should follow the guidelines in the Course Resources module.




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