I cyclically offer a series of five survey courses: “Computing and Data Analysis for Historians”, “Science, Technology, and Society”, “History of Physics A: From the Ancient World to the Twentieth Century”, “History of Physics B: Twentieth-Century to Contemporary Physics”, and “Galileo Galilei”. The aforementioned courses, which are all research based, deal with the basic history of science, examining background information which is relevant both in the undergraduate and graduate curricula. With graduate students I expect substantial research involvement, aiming at the production of final papers suitable for publication or for conference presentations. As part of my teaching, I also offer weekly reading and discussions groups on topics connected to my own research, ranging from “Material and Visual Cultures in the Early Modern,” to “The History of Computing: from the Abacus to Digital Computers.” At any given meeting, students comment on book chapters or relevant articles selected beforehand. Readings and discussion groups are typically led by students, under my direct supervision; their aim is to strengthen organizational skills, leadership, and the ability to talk in front of an audience. They also constitute an opportunity for receiving feedback on working drafts or for practicing the presentation of conference papers.
COMPUTING AND DATA ANALYSIS FOR HISTORIANS
This course offers an advanced approach to qualitative and quantitative methods in history. The objective is to provide students with solid tools for shaping their training as historians. We familiarize ourselves with useful concepts and techniques pertaining to archival research, computing, data mining, descriptive and inferential statistics, discourse analysis, ethnography, grounded theory, regression analysis, etc. Special attention is given to computational methods and to the fast-developing field of the digital humanities. Students will also engage in a variety of class activities under the supervision of the instructor, making use of both in-campus and off-campus resources.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND SOCIETY
In this course we frame early modern, late modern and contemporary developments in science and technology within their social and cultural contexts. The format of the course is discussion-based. During each class, we work on readings that explore central topics in science, technology, and society such as big data, epistemic cultures, intellectual property, invention and innovation, large-scale research, science policy, social construction of technology, sociology of scientific knowledge, technology and social challenges, technoscience. Students are requested to take an active role by preparing class discussions and delivering class presentations so as to improve their public speaking skills.
Here is an example of an in-class test, among the requirements for the “Science, Technology, and Society” course offered in the first semester of the 2021-2022 academic year at Peking University.
HISTORY OF PHYSICS A: FROM THE ANCIENT WORLD TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
This course provides fundamental directions to approach the historical developments of physics, starting with its pre-scientific roots up to the onset of the twentieth century. Classes are structured in four units: ancient history and the medieval period, the Scientific Revolution, the Eighteenth century, and the Nineteenth century. In each part, we work on an abundance of primary sources and familiarize with the studies of major historians of science. In this course, particular attention is given to the Scientific Revolution. To this extent, we delve into the development of the telescope, organizing a trip to the National Astronomical Observatory of China and work in collaboration with the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
HISTORY OF PHYSICS B: TWENTIETH-CENTURY AND CONTEMPORARY PHYSICS
In this section of the History of Physics series we focus on the multifaceted developments that took place in the physical sciences from the early twentieth century to contemporary physics. Analyzing the transition from classical to modern physics, the rise and development of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, we discuss current debates in condensed matter, cosmology, high energy physics, unified field theory, with special attention to the role of digital computers and computer simulations in today’s research. The course particularly welcome physics students and is based on some “field trips” to School of Physics at Peking University so as to connect with professors and researchers currently contributing to various branches of physics.
This course is an introduction to the life and works of Galileo Galilei. We will review the development of the telescope, the history of the heliocentric system, as well as the rise of what we now call the scientific method. We will also reflect on the significance and interpretations of the Scientific Revolution and familiarize ourselves with its major protagonists and their contributions. We will leave room for reflection on how the Galilean culture and practice made their way to China through the Jesuit missions. Undergraduate and graduate students in natural science, as well as those of Italian language and culture, will be welcome to take this course.