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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC1050 Darwin, Germs and the Bomb

10 creditsClass Size: 150

Module manager: Kevin Jones

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Because this module explores the history of modern medicine we will cover issues throughout which are sensitive and could be potentially re-traumatising for some students. Examples of such topics are: racism, animal cruelty, and atrocities linked to fascism, eugenics and warfare. If you are unsure whether this module is suitable for you, please contact the module leader for more details before choosing this module. Controversies rage over science in our modern world. Devout Christians and Muslims battle biologists over the truth of the Darwinian theory of human origins from the animals. Parents desperate to do the right thing try to decide whether their child should or should not receive the MMR vaccine. Britain and the United States invade Iraq, with consequences still unfolding, because they fear ‘weapons of mass destruction’. How did the world come to be like this? In this module, we turn to history for answers, and with them a new perspective on our conflicted present. Looking in particular at the rise of the Darwinian theory, the rise of the germ theory of disease, and the invention of the atomic bomb, we will discover how science became modern and how it transformed the world in its wake.Whatever your main degree, this module is for you. There are no prerequisites except a willingness to think for yourself.


This module sets out to introduce students to the development of science from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, looking in particular at three topics of major historical importance: (1) Darwin and the theory of evolution; (2) Pasteur and the germ theory of disease; (3) the discovery of nuclear fission and the creation of the atomic bomb.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:

• describe the origins and impact of the Darwinian theory of evolution, the germ theory of disease, and the Allied building and use of the atomic bomb in the Second World War;
• analyse these developments in the context of the changing relationship between science and society, including anti-science movements;
• engage sympathetically with beliefs about the natural world now unfamiliar or derided; and
• evaluate claims about the nature of science in the light of its history.


The module is divided between the three episodes – the Darwinian theory of evolution, the germ theory of disease, and the creation of the atomic bomb – but in lectures and seminars we draw out larger themes in the history of modern science, such as science and religion (e.g. in relation to evolution), science and politics (e.g. in relation to the public health and vaccines), and science and war (e.g. in relation to the atomic bomb).

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours84.00
Total Contact hours16.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

Reading and Preparation
Reading Over and Supplementing Lecture Notes (approx. 1 hour/week) = 11;
Reading and Preparing for Tutorials 5 x 5 hrs = 25;
Essay Preparation = 36; Short answer paper preparation = 12.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will receive verbal comments on their understanding and progress in tutorials and be able to visit staff during office hours or arranged meetings throughout the semester.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essayx1 500 short answer (mid-module)25.00
Essay1,500 words (end of module)75.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:19:42


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