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Science in the 20th Century

Embark on a grand tour of the sciences with a distinguished professor.
Science in the 20th Century is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 84.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must listen for those who want an education I recommend listening to these lectures. If you enjoy science, you will listen over and over again to these lectures.
Date published: 2022-12-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good, but not great Prof Goldman does a very good job presenting a wide range of science information, & helps to illustrate the changes that have happened in the recent past, & to provide some insight into what we might yet see in the future.
Date published: 2022-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How We Got Here in Science and Culture I am amazed one person was able to cover this vast subject with such insight and objectivity. I can't add anything to the high praise of other reviewers. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Professor Goldman could give us a short update to the present (2022) in an addendum lecture or two?
Date published: 2022-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly a “Great Course” Professor Goldman is a TERRIFIC lecturer - from the old school of professors who know their subject(s) - backwards and forwards and inside-out - THOROUGHLY! He relies only on notes (NOT a “script”) to make his presentations and he has the ability to present highly-complex subjects in an understandable way. He is enthusiastic about his subject and manages to hold my rapt attention as he presents. I’m only four lectures into his course and have seen only a few supporting video offerings - but, so far, this seems forgivable. His use of his hands and body language seem to suffice for most things. I am “relishing” this course - looking forward to each lecture as I go forward. I absolutely recommend this course to anyone with an interest in the subject matter.
Date published: 2021-12-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from My Review for Science in the 20th Century: A Socia Have yet to view the course. Repeatedly find it is easier to buy a course than its is to view it. So also with books.
Date published: 2021-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor and course is very good. Terrific historical perspective.
Date published: 2021-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great learning One of the best courses I have ever had. So clear and precise in teaching
Date published: 2021-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Still of Great Value As others have observed, this is not a "recent" course, inasmuch as the 21st century was in its infancy when it was produced. Any recent critique of this course with that as the message is, however, merely low-hanging fruit. It does not matter that advances in the past decade and a half (the actual discovery, rather than mere mention, of the Higgs Boson, etc.) are not explored. What matters is that topics that are, in fact, covered in depth are plainly set forth and explained by Professor Goldman such that they are grasped without being unnecessarily "dumbed down." This is an ambitious course from the standpoint of the centuries of scientific progress it covers and only falls short, in my view, in the last several lectures, where the matters covered seem to bloat the central scientific mission. I would envision a much leaner and concentrated approach had it been 24 lectures instead of the 36 it became. But this is a small nit. What strikes me is that Professor Goldman easily manages a smooth, conversational and very engaged presentation even though he surely had the assistance of a teleprompter. Most others simply cannot do this very well. Professor Goldman also reveals a puckish sense of humor, and he informs rather than sermonizes. The superstars of 20th century physics are well represented, from Einstein to Feynman and beyond. While an updated course would be welcome, it would be foolish to dismiss this one simply by hanging the dreaded "dated" sign on it. Well worth the purchase.
Date published: 2021-06-21
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Follow the fascinating story of science as it unfolds in the 20th century. Learn the distinctive ideas that characterize 20th-century science, organized into five major themes: matter and energy, the universe, Earth, life, and humanity. Discover the most significant developments in anthropology, archaeology, history, linguistics, sociology, political science, economics, psychology, and cognitive science-alongside physics, chemistry, mathematics, Earth science, and biology.


Steven L. Goldman

After 50 years, I continue to find new depths and fresh excitement in studying the history and philosophy of science.


Lehigh University

Dr. Steven L. Goldman is the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Lehigh University, where he has taught for 30 years. He earned his B.S. in Physics at the Polytechnic University of New York and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston University.

Before taking his position at Lehigh, Professor Goldman taught at The Pennsylvania State University, where he was a cofounder of one of the first U.S. academic programs in science, technology, and society studies.

Professor Goldman has received the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award from Lehigh University. A prolific author, he has written or edited eight books, including Science, Technology, and Social Progress, and he has an impressive list of scholarly articles and reviews to his credit. He has been a national lecturer for the scientific research society Sigma Xi and a national program consultant for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

By This Professor

The Evolution of 20th-Century Science

01: The Evolution of 20th-Century Science

Professor Steven L. Goldman introduces the scope of the course and discusses the key features of 19th-century science that led to the extraordinary creativity and innovation of science in the 20th century....

32 min
Redefining Reality

02: Redefining Reality

The first of 10 lectures on the physical sciences covers Einstein's special and general theories of relativity, which undermined 200 years of physics and launched a wholly unexpected revision in our conception of the universe....

30 min
Quantum Theory Makes Its Appearance

03: Quantum Theory Makes Its Appearance

A puzzling phenomenon called the "blackbody radiation problem" inspired a new theory of the atom that would ultimately redefine reality and rationality. Professor Goldman tells the story of the inception of this bold idea, called quantum theory....

30 min
The Heroic

04: The Heroic "Old" Age of Quantum Theory

Picking up the story of quantum theory in the 1920s, this lecture covers its growth into a mature system called quantum mechanics through key contributions by Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, and Werner Heisenberg....

30 min
A Newer Theory-QED

05: A Newer Theory-QED

In the 1930s, quantum mechanics entered its "working" phase, called quantum electrodynamics (QED), with increasingly comprehensive-and often bizarre-explanations for the interactions of matter and energy....

30 min
QED Meets Fission and Fusion

06: QED Meets Fission and Fusion

As physicists began sorting out the structure of the atomic nucleus, an awesome source of energy came to light that found application in nuclear weapons and the first plausible theory of how stars work....

30 min
Learning by Smashing

07: Learning by Smashing

In order to explore the inside of atoms, physicists invented "atom smashers" to break them apart. These developed from the original 5-inch-diameter cyclotron of the 1930s to today's mighty particle accelerators that are measured in miles....

30 min
What Good is QED?

08: What Good is QED?

QED was a fertile theory that not only guided the development of nuclear physics from 1930 to 1960 but also raised philosophical issues about the status of truth. QED also led to practical applications such as semiconductors, lasers, and superconductivity....

30 min
The Newest Theory-Quantum Chromodynamics

09: The Newest Theory-Quantum Chromodynamics

By the 1960s, the number of "elementary" particles created by atom smashers was in the hundreds and the need for a unifying theory was pressing. "Quarks" came to the rescue in a theory called quantum chromodynamics, proposed by Murray Gell-Mann....

30 min
Unifying Nature

10: Unifying Nature

The success of quark theory fueled the search for further unification, specifically in a theory that would unite the four fundamental forces of nature. That effort has spawned such strange ideas as loop theory and string theory, and involves picturing conditions at the instant of the Big Bang itself....

30 min
Chemists Become Designers

11: Chemists Become Designers

The final lecture on the physical sciences traces the revolution in chemistry due largely to Linus Pauling's quantum theory of the chemical bond in the 1930s, which together with the advent of supercomputers now makes it possible to create designer molecules....

30 min
Mathematics and Truth

12: Mathematics and Truth

Professor Goldman pauses in his tour of 20th-century science to explore the curious power of mathematics to explain nature. How can mathematical abstractions tell us anything about concrete experience?...

30 min
Mathematics and Reality

13: Mathematics and Reality

Continuing his discussion of mathematics, Professor Goldman shows that 20th-century developments in mathematics were every bit as breathtaking as developments in the theories of matter, energy, life, Earth, and the universe....

30 min
The Universe Expands

14: The Universe Expands

The first of three lectures on the universe charts our evolving conception of the universe, from 1900 when the Milky Way was thought to be the only galaxy there was, to the discovery of an expanding universe of countless galaxies in the 1920s and the formulation of the Big Bang theory in the late 1940s....

30 min
What is the Universe?

15: What is the Universe?

Bolstered by the discovery of the cosmic background radiation in the 1960s, the Big Bang theory underwent a startling modification in the 1980s called inflation theory that radically enlarged the estimated size of the universe. Recent observations also show that the universe's expansion is accelerating, contrary to all expectations....

30 min
How Do We Know What's Out There?

16: How Do We Know What's Out There?

This lecture spotlights the fascinating variety of instruments that have unveiled the universe in the course of the 20th century, from ground-based optical, radio, and neutrino telescopes to spacecraft that are surveying the cosmos at x-ray, gamma ray, infrared, and other wavelengths....

30 min
From Equilibrium to Dynamism

17: From Equilibrium to Dynamism

The first of three lectures on earth sciences contrasts the picture of a stable Earth that prevailed in 1900 with the dynamic planet that emerged from the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s, which was inspired by Alfred Wegener's rejected theory of continental drift from 1915....

30 min
Subterranean Fury

18: Subterranean Fury

Plate tectonics was a "Copernican revolution" in our conception of Earth, which not only explained features that had long baffled geologists, but led to new insights about Earth as a complex system of relationships among the constantly changing atmosphere, oceans, core, mantle, and crust....

30 min
Solar System Citizen

19: Solar System Citizen

This lecture considers our planet's place in the solar system and examines one of the most outstanding accomplishments of the 20th century: the exploration of Earth, the Moon, and planets by spacecraft....

30 min
Science Organized, Adopted, Co-opted

20: Science Organized, Adopted, Co-opted

Professor Goldman begins a pair of lectures examining science from the "outside" by tracing the origin of the public commitment to big science in the U.S. From limited government support in the 19th century, science grew to an endeavor that consumed an estimated $1 trillion of public funds in the second half of the 20th century....

30 min
Techno-Science and Globalization

21: Techno-Science and Globalization

One of the most important of all scientific developments in the 20th century was the new relationship between science and society, with science increasingly being equated by the public with truth. At the same time, the scope and direction of scientific research was becoming increasingly subject to political influence....

30 min
The Evolution of Evolution

22: The Evolution of Evolution

The first of five lectures on life sciences shows how Charles Darwin's version of evolution was rescued in the early 20th century by the discovery of radioactivity, which led to proof that Earth was billions of years old, and by the rediscovery of Gregor Mendel's forgotten 1865 paper on inheritance in plants....

31 min
Human Evolution

23: Human Evolution

Spectacular fossil finds in the 20th century provide a detailed picture of the evolution of our species. Recently, this picture has been greatly enhanced by a powerful new technique that uses DNA to trace prehistoric human migration....

30 min
Genetics-From Mendel to Molecules

24: Genetics-From Mendel to Molecules

Between 1900 and 1910, genetics emerged as the dominant theory of inheritance, sparking a quest to understand the nature of the gene and ultimately leading to the identification of DNA (originally considered "uninteresting") as the carrier of the genetic code....

30 min
Molecular Biology

25: Molecular Biology

The once-controversial idea that life can be explained by chemical phenomena triumphed in the 20th century with the astonishing success of molecular biology in unraveling the basic structures of living systems....

31 min
Molecular Medicine

26: Molecular Medicine

Concluding the series on the life sciences, this lecture looks at the application of discoveries in microbiology and other physical sciences to medicine, highlighting advances in pharmaceuticals and medical imaging....

30 min
Culture-Anthropology and Archaeology

27: Culture-Anthropology and Archaeology

Beginning an eight-lecture series on the social sciences, Professor Goldman traces the development of different schools of anthropology and the shift in archaeology from collecting artifacts to explaining cultural development through material remains....

30 min

28: Culture-History

Is history a science? This lecture follows the shifting fortunes of objectivity and relativism as historical methodologies. The latter culminated in the extreme form of relativism known as post-modernism, which attacked the foundations of science itself....

30 min

29: Culture-Linguistics

Linguistics underwent a profound change in the 20th century, with the focus shifting from the historical study of languages to theories of how language works, developed by Ferdinand de Saussure, Edward Sapir, Benjamin Lee Whorf, Noam Chomsky, and others....

31 min

30: Society-Sociology

What is a society? What distinguishes it, what keeps it together over time, and what are the laws of its functionality? 20th-century sociology moved from grand theories of society to the detailed study of social processes and institutions....

30 min
Society-Political Science

31: Society-Political Science

In exploring the relationships of power and authority that underpin society, Professor Goldman focuses on theories of what holds the fragmented, pluralistic American democracy together....

30 min

32: Society-Economics

In 1900, "the economy" did not exist as a concept, but as the 20th century unfolded a new breed of intellectuals called economists strove to explain and influence the intricate forces of supply, demand, production, distribution, and consumption....

31 min
Mind-Classical and Behavioral Psychology

33: Mind-Classical and Behavioral Psychology

The quest to understand human psychology spawned startlingly different approaches in the 20th century, including the theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Gestalt psychology, and the behaviorism of B. F. Skinner. Since the 1970s, the mind-centered approach of cognitive psychology has dominated....

31 min
Mind-Cybernetics, AI, Connectionism

34: Mind-Cybernetics, AI, Connectionism

The final lecture on the social sciences examines the rapid progress since the 1940s in using computers to model the operation of the mind-an effort called artificial intelligence that raises the formidable question: What is mind?...

30 min
Looking Back

35: Looking Back

Professor Goldman looks back on the previous 34 lectures, drawing provocative conclusions and asking probing questions, such as: Does the increasing explanatory and predictive power of science mean that science is drawing closer to the truth?...

30 min
Looking Around and Looking Ahead

36: Looking Around and Looking Ahead

Where are the sciences headed? The forecasts of 19th-century thinkers about the 20th century could not have been more wrong, but Professor Goldman hazards a few informed and fascinating predictions about the 21st century....

31 min