Science in the 20th Century

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delightfu in every way I enjoyed every aspect of his presentation from style to his great fund of knowledge in multiple areas. I have spent my life in science and great appreciated his philosophical correlation. Especially important in our scientifically biased time. Science is, as Feynman said so well, is how we prevent ourselves from lying to ourselves!
Date published: 2020-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Real Treasure Professor Goldman is a treasure. I really enjoyed his history and explanation of Quantum Theory and Mathematics. He adds little witticisms to keep things light. He amply credits the originator of the concepts he is explaining. It has bee a joy to watch his lectures.
Date published: 2020-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Catch up on 100 Years of Science I found this course highly informative, enjoyable to listen to and, in parts, quite challenging. The first 10 or so lectures, on physics, were the hardest for me. I'd taken physics in high school, but apparently we did only classical physics and didn't make it as far as Einstein and relativity, much less quantum theory. I probably understood no more than 70-80 percent of that section of the course. Beyond that point, I understood almost everything. I enjoyed the way he from time to time brought in philosophical issues without over-emphasizing them. Almost all of the figures and concepts in the social science portion of the course were familiar to me, but I found the professor's overview of developments in anthropology, linguistics, psychology and economics insightful and illuminating. A number of facts he cited in this section surprised me, such as the fact that Carl Jung prepared psychological profiles of Nazi leaders for the Allies and that Thomas Kuhn had been charged with showing the logical continuity and progress of the history of science, yet his seminal work "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" ended up demonstrating the exact opposite. I was also surprised to learn that anyone had ever considered history a science, since to me it so obviously belongs in the humanities. Here are a few of the points or themes emphasized in the course that will stay with me: * Unexpected parallels between developments in physics and in the social sciences * The upshot of the thousands-years-old debate over how mathematics relates to the material world * The substantial extent of experimental support for many "way out there" claims in physics and cosmology * Reasons for the growth of the discipline of engineering in the US * Historical changes in the social and cultural context for science Professor Goldman has an energetic and enthusiastic speaking style that remains conversational even when he's talking about abstruse topics. He has a few pronunciation quirks, such as "evolyOOOtion" for "evolution" but he obviously knows French and German and did well with the names of scientists in those languages. I recommend this course for any non-scientist who wants to fill in their knowledge of the sciences in the 20th century and who is willing to be challenged.
Date published: 2019-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must for the educated citizen Author takes listener through some very complex subjects in a careful and clear way. One should recognize after hearing this course that the average layman is merely a bystander to the most profound developments of the past 150 years. Since much has happened since this was published, an updated edition is needed.
Date published: 2019-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well structured and delivered Dr. Goldman does a great job of covering all areas of science and presenting insights that will make you think deeply about each field and how they relate to each other. I highly recommend this series to anyone with an interest in science or engineering.
Date published: 2019-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I am disappointed I have enjoyed probably two hundred Great Courses over the last 20 years, but this was the first time that I found a course with such blatant factual errors in the first few lectures, such as Niels Bohr winning an Olympic Medal, or Fermi's nuclear pile being constructed under the football field (rather than the squash courts). I realize that these issues are not germane to the topic of the course, but they are still extremely distracting.
Date published: 2018-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Real food for thought! Goldman is certainly worth studying. His three courses are a complete education in themselves. His milieu is the philosophy of science hence, he teaches how to integrate scientific thinking into one's social life. He is an iconoclast, breaking the myths of discovery. He changed my perspective on science from one of belief to skepticism. I now look at scientific progress with a more critical eye. I listened to 96 of his lectures on audio, 48 hours, and was never bored.
Date published: 2018-08-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from noy able to understand i should have previewed before I bought it. I will try another science course on a similar subject
Date published: 2018-04-01
  • y_2020, m_9, d_23, h_15
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_6, tr_69
  • loc_en_CA, sid_1220, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.1
  • CLOUD, getReviews, 4.04ms
The Evolution of 20th-Century Science
1: 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
2: 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
3: 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 "Old" Age of Quantum Theory
4: 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
5: 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
6: 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
7: 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?
8: 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
9: 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
Steven L. Goldman

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


Boston University


Lehigh University

About Steven L. Goldman

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.

Also By This Professor