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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 1, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 10
JHU Course Catalog: The Natural and the Artificial

Robert Kargon

By Lisa De Nike

Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series in which reporters drop in on interesting classes throughout the university's eight academic divisions.

THE COURSE: The Natural and the Artificial: The Concept of the Man-Made Man. The course attempts to illustrate society's changing understanding of science by examining the concept of the artificial human being. It begins with the Renaissance's "golem" legend and proceeds through the Scientific Revolution/Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the 20th century. Limited to 25 students. 3 credits. Department of the History of Science and Technology, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

MEETING TIME: 2 to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays, fall 2004.

THE INSTRUCTOR: Robert Kargon, Willis K. Shepard Professor in the History of Science.

TEACHING ASSISTANT: Andrew Russell, a second-year graduate student in the history of technology.

SYLLABUS: The course is an appealing mix of thought-provoking lecture, discussion and movie watching (which takes place in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library's AV Room). Lecture/discussion topics range from the role of science and magic in the Renaissance to views of man and machines during the Industrial Revolution to artificial intelligence and the Internet.

COURSE WORK: Grades are based on class participation, one midsemester quiz and a final examination.

REQUIRED READING: R.U.R., by Karel Capek; The Fourth Discontinuity, by Bruce Mazlish; He, She and It, by Marge Piercy; Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley; Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G. Wells. Students also read selections from Science and Change, by Hugh Kearney; The Golem, by Chaim Bloch; Man a Machine, by J.O. de la Mettrie; and The Sandman, by E.T.A. Hoffmann.

FILMS VIEWED IN CLASS: The Golem; Frankenstein; Island of Lost Souls; Colossus: The Forbin Project; The Stepford Wives (the original version); Bladerunner; A.I.

OVERHEARD IN CLASS: "Romanticism is a predisposition rather than a philosophy. When the French Revolution decayed into repression and terror, some repudiated the philosophies they linked with it and turned to a renewed interest in the medieval period, in Gothic stories and in the idea that there is more to the world than our reason alone can tell us."
— Professor Kargon

STUDENTS SAY: "I first saw this class in that large book given to JHU prospects. It caught my interest, but the school didn't offer it in my freshman or sophomore year. Only now have they offered it again, and I jumped on the chance to take it. I love the class discussions; they're really interesting and easy to get into. Overall, the class is very interesting and enjoyable."
— Matthew Bufano, junior computer engineering major from Monkton, Md.


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