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The subject will combine an introduction to electrical theory and its past with a cultural history of Europe from 1750 to 1850. Students will learn about this by by studying and performing historical experiments from the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Many of these experiments were designed as public spectacle for the entertainment of enlightened audiences. They also produced problems in understanding what electricity was and they became centres of debates about the role of science in enlightened societies.
Around 1700, electrical phenomena were considered to be marginal curiosities hardly worth studying; by 1850 electricity stood at the centre of modern science and its industrial applications. In between electricity became closely associated with enlightenment ideas, American independence, the French Revolution, the romantic fantasies about Dr Frankenstein and the industrial revolution. The subject will use the historical experiments and their replication in the classroom as a means to trace these connections and to learn about electricity in an unconventional way.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who successfully complete this subject will:
- Possess a broad knowledge and understanding of the history of modern science;
- Possess a deep knowledge of the history of electricity;
- Create sustained and critical arguments using experimental data and implement the consequences of their arguments in the design of new experiments;
- Develop an awareness of the relationship between electrodynamics and its history;
- Understand the complex relationship between theory formation and its historical context;
- Possess effective communication and presentation skills (written and oral), and the ability to collaborate constructively within the classroom;
- Demonstrate ethical integrity in written work and classroom activities.
Last updated: 22 November 2023