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CODE 104269
SEMESTER 2° Semester


The history of scientific thought investigates the emergence and the evolution of scientific ideas in their historical, philosophical and social context. This module focuses on the early modern period, namely, on the period of the ‘Scientific Revolution’, and on the rise of the constitutive traits of modern science, such as its independence from philosophy and religion, the process of mathematization of the scientific disciplines, experimental practices and their reproducibility and circulation, the visual representation of scientific results, the use of instruments. 



Outline the historical development of the different sciences to then analyze their theoretical and methodological structure. To acquire a solid knowledge of the history of scientific-philosophical thought from antiquity to the present day in order to offer broad information on today's debate in the various fields of scientific research. Promote an adequate approach to the use of bibliographic tools, texts, and the different argumentative and epistemological methods of the different sciences.


By the end of the module, students will have gained:

- specialist knowledge on the early modern history of science

- analytical skills with respect to the main scientific texts of the Scientific Revolution

- a study methodology to understand the main problems of early modern science

- the ability to use appropriate specialist terminology.

- the ability to think critically and autonomously on the history of science.

- the ability to start, develop and communicate a research project / essay




Lectures will be organized thematically and complemented by readings from historical sources and by the discussion of secondary bibliography in Italian and in other languages. Secondary bibliography will be uploaded on Teams.

Attendance is strongly recommended. Attending students have the option to replace the oral exam with a research project/paper. The procedures will be discussed in class during the first week of the course.

Classes take place in person, utilizing a Teams channel for the circulation of bibliography and PowerPoint slides. Online mode is only available upon request for working students.


This module deals with the origins of the Scientific Revolution in the fields of astronomy and cosmology. The first book of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus will illustrate the issues linked to heliocentrism, its motivations and its scientific and philosophical sources. The course will then study the ‘cosmological question’ between the end of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century. To this end, the central part of the module will be dedicated to the study of the works by Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), and the way in which these develop the consequences of heliocentrism both in the field of natural philosophy, and in the relations between philosophy, science and religion. The analysis of the Cena de le ceneri (Ash Wednesday Supper) will be complemented by readings from Bruno’s other works, including the metaphysical dialogues De la causa, principio et uno and De l’infinito, universo e mondi. The last part of the course will consider the evolution of the cosmological debate in the first decades of the seventeenth century through readings from the works of Kepler and Galilei.

Selected topics from the module will include:

- Humanism and moder science

- Cosmology and metaphysics

- Heliocentrism and the infinite extension of the universe

- Tosmological models and their visual representation

- The origins of cosmology as a philosophical discipline

- Astronomical discoveries and natural philosophy

- Mathematics and natural philosophy



Required readings for students attending the course


Niccolò Copernico, De revolutionibus, Book I. A recent Italian translation is in Niccolò Copernico, La struttura del cosmo, introduzione di M. Blay, commento di J. Seidengart, traduzione di R Giroldini, Firenze Olschki, 2009. English translations are also available.  

Giordano Bruno, La cena de le ceneri. Recommended Italian edition: Giordano Bruno, Opere italiane, a cura di N. Ordine, Torino, UTET 2002 (also available as ebook). A recent English translation with commentary is Giordano Bruno, The Ash Wednesday Supper, edited and translated by H. Gatti, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2018.


Required readings:

Th. Kuhn, La rivoluzione copernicana. L’astronomia planetaria nello sviluppo del pensiero occidentale, Torino, Einaudi (original edition in English: The Copernican Revolution. Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought)

Further bibliography will be available through Aulaweb.


Student NOT attending the course

In addition to the above bibliography, students will study one of the following books (all three of them are also available in English translation):

- H. Gatti, Giordano Bruno e la scienza del Rinascimento, Milano, R. Cortina (orginal edition in English: Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science).

- R. Westman, The Copernican Question. Prognostication, Skepticism and Celestial Order, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2011. Capitoli 1-5 (pp. 25-169), 8-10 (pp. 223-306)

- M. Bucciantini, M. Camerota, F. Giudice, Il telescopio di Galileo. Una storia europea, Torino, Einaudi (English translation Galileo’s Telescope. A European Story, Cambridge, Harvard UP).




Classes take place in the second term (mid-February til May)



Attending students: You have the option to choose between an oral exam or a research project/thesis of approximately 20 pages (around 5000 words), to be agreed upon with the instructor within one month from the expected submission date. In both cases, the evaluation will consider the critical understanding of the topics addressed, the ability to analyze texts, and proficiency in philosophical and scientific language.

It is possible to take the exam in English. Students who wish to avail themselves of this option are advised to contact the instructor to agree on the English bibliography.

Non-attending students: Oral exam.


Pre-registration for the exam is mandatory and must be done at least one week before the chosen session



Students will be assessed on:

1) their knowledge of the texts and of their historical and philosophical context

2) their ability to analyse critically the topics and the texts studied during the course

3) the coherence of their arguments, and the appropriateness of the philosophical and scientific terminology.

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