The Discovery of Global Warming

Professor Julien Emile-Geay, Department of Earth Sciences

Today there is a quasi-absolute scientific consensus that human activities are warming the planet, despite some fierce resistance in sectors of the public sphere. How did we go from the idea that Earth was too vast and powerful for humans to possibly change, to the recognition that Earth’s surface is a collection of fragile ecosystems that humanity must manage and preserve for its own survival? This class will survey the discovery of global warming. Its 200-year history mirrors the fundamental progress of science: quantum physics, electro-magnetism, fluid dynamics, biogeochemistry, radioisotope chemistry, chaos theory, ecology, supercomputing, state estimation, and the theory of complex adaptive systems. The journey will teach us much about the nature of scientific inquiry, the culture of “organized skepticism,” and the emergence of scientific consensus based on a consilience of evidence involving theory, direct and indirect observations, as well as experiments in silico.


David Archer and Raymond Pierrehumbert, eds. The Warming Papers: The Scientific Foundation for the Climate
Change Forecast.
Paul N. Edwards. A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming.
Spencer R. Weart. The Discovery of Global Warming.

Islands: Our World’s Living Laboratories

Professor Karla Heidelberg, Departments of Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies
Professor Lynn Dodd, School of Religion

Islands are home to roughly 600 million people—or about 10% of the world’s population. Cultural and biological developments have abounded on islands since our earliest times, and provide us with laboratories in which to investigate evolution, colonization, sustainability, and other concepts critical to understanding our world and ourselves at multiple times and scales, both on planet Earth and on the other outposts of our solar system that we aim to explore.

The discovery and settlement of Earth’s islands is one of the most fascinating stories in human history. Unique cultures, economies, beliefs and medicines develop on islands, while numerous animal and plant species live only on islands or in the soil and sands formed there. Islands can serve as buffers against natural disasters including storms and disease, and they can be threatened by climate change and resource depletion, leading us to wonder whether islands are bellwethers of all of our futures. If we consider Captain Cook’s voyages to Tahiti to chart the transit of Venus; or Darwin’s fascination with the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands that led to his insights into evolution; or Swift’s tale of Robinson Crusoe (based on an actual incident); or Disney’s fantasy Moana; we understand that islands have long captured our imaginations, both scientific and romantic. We are prompted to think creatively about islands as a lens for viewing natural processes and human experiences of the past, present and future.

Through activities, reading, structured discussions, and field trips that focus on islands, we encounter diverse ways to consider and answer questions such as “How did we get here?” and “What lies ahead for us?” or “How do our actions impact the future of islands as well as the species that live on them?”

A trip to the Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island the weekend of September 13-15 is a centerpiece of this class that is taught in partnership by marine biologist and environmental scientist Dr. Karla Heidelberg and archaeologist Dr. Lynn Dodd. Please make sure you can attend these dates before registering. Other Friday field trips utilizing the lab time will be an integral part of the course.

Madness, Science, and Society in the Modern World

Professor Paul Lerner, Department of History

Since the late eighteenth century, Western science has been grappling with understanding the mind and its functions. Over this period various approaches to explaining mental disorders have arisen and (in most cases) then fallen out of favor, and (what we now call) mental illnesses have been repeatedly reclassified, re-categorized and re-conceptualized since the beginnings of professional psychiatry. Similarly, treatment methods and ways of handling mentally disturbed individuals have fluctuated over time, from the so-called moral treatment of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, through the rise of psychiatric science several decades later, the birth of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis around the turn of the twentieth century, the era of lobotomies and ECT around World War II, and our own age of neuroscience and psychopharmacology.

This course explores perspectives on mind, self and psyche, focusing above all on the roughly two centuries-long history of psychiatry in Europe and North America. We ask such questions as: How has our society formulated scientific knowledge about mind, behavior and mental pathology? How have perceptions and representations of insanity changed over time and across cultures? How have different societies and regimes defined, diagnosed, categorized and dealt with mentally ill people? In what ways do ideas about madness reflect broader cultural currents and social transformations? How is knowledge about the mind part of larger systems of power and social organization? How have diagnoses and treatments of mental illness reflected and intensified dominant notions of gender, race and class? How do market forces shape conceptualizations and treatments of mental illness and sanity? And finally, how have categories like illness and madness intersected with racial thinking and how have they been used to diagnose and dominate the peoples colonized by European empires?

The class investigates these and other issues in the history of madness. We do so largely through primary source readings — writings by doctors and patients — and through historical, sociological and theoretical accounts of psychiatry’s history. We will also use literature and film to study the representation of mental illness and mental science in several contexts. Assignments include a take-home midterm exam, a research paper and several short writing projects.


Greg Eghigian, ed. From Madness to Mental Health: Psychiatric Disorder and Its Treatment in Western Civilization.
Frantz Fanon. Black Skin, White Masks.
Michael Foucault. The Foucault Reader.
Perter Gay, ed. The Freud Reader.
Anne Harrington. Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness.
Mical Raz. The Lobotomy Letters.