THE TEACHING OF HISTORY OF SCIENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY: SOME BRIEF CONSIDERATIONS
I teach history of science at the University of Udine, Italy. My students – about 25 – frequently the second and the third year at the faculty of Letters and Philosophy (now called “Polo Umanistico”). They have to pass a sole proof in history of science. Therefore, in this editorial, I would like to face the problems connected with the teaching of history of science to students who have a scarce knowledge of mathematics and who in their future will have probably few contacts with science and its history. Thus, two problems are particularly difficult in this case: 1) to choose the subject properly; 2) to choose the appropriate educational approach. Obviously, the choice of the subject is always important, but if one teaches history of science in a scientific faculty, the situation is, in a sense, easier: for example, at the faculty of physics, one could select a specific course each year, i.e., history of mechanics in a certain period, history of electromagnetism in the 19th century, the theory of optics as it is developed by an author or a series of authors (Euclid, Witelo, Kepler, Snell, Descartes, and so on), etc. Each subject could be dealt with by facing the particular research of each scholar and entering the specific mathematical arguments. This is not possible in a humanities faculty. Thence, I would like to explain my choice and to trace some general considerations.