History of Science to the Age of Newton
Instructor: Peter Barker

Final examination -- Thursday Dec 12, 2013, 4:30-6:30pm, PHSC 224

Time: Two hours.

Instructions: Write essays on ONE topic from list A and ONE topic from list B. Diagrams may be used to illustrate your answer but should be used to supplement rather than to replace the written portion. You may consult books or notes during the exam, but the transcription of prepared answers is prohibited. Use of cell phones or the internet is also specifically prohibited.


1) What were two important defects of Copernicus's system, from the viewpoint of a sixteenth century reader? How were these defects repaired by seventeenth century scientists?

2) How did Kepler's account of planetary motion resemble and differ from that of Copernicus?

3) What were Galileo's two most important telescopic discoveries and how did they undermine Aristotle's picture of the cosmos?

4) Review two of Aristotle and Ptolemy's arguments for the centrality and immobility of the earth, and construct replies to each argument based on the work of Galileo or Newton.


5) In the period from the death of Copernicus to the publication of Newton's work, was the influence of religion on science positive or negative? Consider at least two major figures discussed in the course.

6) Describe the role of patronage in the careers of any two figures considered during the course.

7) Imagine you are an advisor to the King of England in 1690. His Majesty wishes to appoint an Astronomer Royal. There are two candidates: a follower of Tycho Brahe and a follower of Isaac Newton. Who would you advise His Majesty to appoint and why?

8) Newton famously said "If I have seen further, it is because I stood upon the shoulders of giants." Who were Newton's giants? In your answer describe in detail the connections between Newton's ideas and at least two earlier figures.