History of Physics

History of Physics

Code: 63103
ECTS: 4.0
Lecturers in charge: doc. dr. sc. Tihomir Vukelja - Lectures
Lecturers: Tihomir Vukelja - Seminar
Take exam: Studomat

1. komponenta

Lecture typeTotal
Lectures 30
Seminar 15
* Load is given in academic hour (1 academic hour = 45 minutes)
COURSE GOALS: The objective of the course is to introduce students briefly with the development of physics within wider historical context and to teach them how to use particular historical episodes for a more successful physics teaching. The course offers fundamental insight into changes of the worldviews and the methodology of physics, into dependence of the development of physics on social, religious, technological and other circumstances, as also into the origin of the fundamental physical methods and concepts. By doing this, modern physics is considered from the time perspective, as a human achievement shaped by efforts of many generations, which consequently enables its more complete understanding. A special emphasize is on the intuitive elements, founded in everyday experience and presented in particular stages of the development of physics, and which can interfere with students' acquisition of modern conceptions. Programme devotes more attention to the antic, medieval and renaissance physics than to modern physics, in order to familiarise students with methods and modes of phenomenological explanations presented in physics of these periods, regarding the fact that many aspects and details of the development of modern physics are analysed in other courses. In the context of each course subject, elements which are especially emphasized and analysed are those that can be used in teaching, in order to achieve a more successful acquisition and illustration of the contents of modern physics.

This course helps students to be able, upon completing the degree, to:
1.1. demonstrate a thorough knowledge and understanding of the fundamental laws of classical and modern physics;
1.2. demonstrate a thorough knowledge and understanding of the most important physics theories (logical and mathematical structure, experimental support, described physical phenomena);
1.5. describe the framework of natural sciences;
1.6. integrate physics content knowledge with knowledge of pedagogy, psychology, didactics and teaching methods courses;
2.6. create a learning environment that encourages active engagement in learning and promotes continuing development of pupils' skills and knowledge;
3.1. develop a critical scientific attitude towards research in general, and in particular by learning to critically evaluate arguments, assumptions, abstract concepts and data;
3.5. demonstrate professional integrity and ethical behavior in work with pupils and colleagues;
4.2. present complex ideas clearly and concisely;
4.3. present their own research results at education or scientific meetings;
4.4. use the written and oral English language communication skills that are essential for pursuing a career in physics and education;
5.1. search for and use professional literature as well as any other sources of relevant information;
5.3. develop a personal sense of responsibility for their professional advancement and development.

On completion of this course successful student will be able to outline and critically analyse:
* the main characteristics of physics in different historical periods;
* the role of technology, mathematics and philosophy in the creation of modern physics;
* the impact of social factors on development of physics;
* the main stages of development of concepts, theories, and methods in physics;
* the main characteristics of antic, medieval and renaissance understanding of nature .

Introduction: physics as a historical phenomenon. Natural philosophy and modern physics: comparison (the subject and aims of the investigation, methods and world view). The question of the beginnings of physics. Mythical world view of early civilizations, the nature of Egyptian and Babylonian mathematics and astronomy.
Ancient Greek: general historical, social, intellectual, educational, material and economic circumstances in the Greek civilization. The Miletians and the concept of nature: the new world view and the beginnings of philosophy. The early cosmological theories, specific problems (magnetism, light, atmospheric phenomena), the new explanation of phenomena. The natural experience and mind. Motives for the investigation of nature.
The problem of change and the structure of matter: Parmenides and Zeno, Pythagoreans, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, the atomists. The sophists and Socrates.
Plato's natural philosophy. The early Greek astronomy and the Pythagorean cosmology. Plato and the beginnings of theoretical astronomy. Eudoxus. Heraclides of Pontus.
Aristotle's natural philosophy, general characteristics: the definition of physics, metaphysics, methodology. The elements: definitions, properties, and transformations.
Aristotle's natural philosophy: cosmology, natural and enforced movements, description and the laws of the change of place, the mover, optics. Aristotle's natural philosophy and the contemporary education in physics.
Hellenism: general historical circumstances, Alexandrian Museum and Library. Hellenistic natural philosophy: Lyceum after Aristotle, Epicureans, Stoics, Neoplatonists, John Philoponus.
Hellenistic applications of mathematics in natural philosophy: statics (Archimedes), optics (Euclides, Ptolemy). Applied mechanics.
Hellenistic astronomy: heliocentric world model (Aristarchus), advancement of the observational astronomy (Hipparchus), development of the geocentric world model (Apollonius and Ptolemy). Achievements and the role of the ancient natural philosophy.
Decline of the natural philosophy in the late-Hellenism. General characteristics of the Roman civilization and natural philosophy in Rome (popularizers, encyclopedists, translations). Early Middle Ages (from 5th to 10th century): general historical circumstances, social, intellectual, educational, material and economical foundations. Philosophy of nature and Christianity. Carolingian Renaissance. Natural philosophy in the Early Middle Ages: Isidore of Seville, Bede, John Scotus Erigena, Gerbert of Aurillac. Shaping of the medieval world view.
The Islamic civilization, general characteristics. The place of the Greek science in Islamic society. Islamic astronomy, statics, optics (Alhazen) and natural philosophy (Avicenna, Averroes).
Christian Europe in 11th and 12th century: economic renewal and its consequences. The Medieval symbolic mentality and natural philosophy. The translation movement. Restoration of the cities and emergence of the universities, scholastics. Material life and the technology in the Middle Ages and consequences for the natural philosophy. Natural philosophy in 12th century urban schools: naturalism and deism.
Incursion of the Aristotelianism in 13th century and the problem of the relationship between faith and reason. Natural philosophy in the late Middle Ages (13th and 14th century): nature and methodology. Research areas: cosmology and astronomy, structure of the matter, kinematics (Mertonians and Oresme), dynamics (Buridan and the impetus theory), statics, optics (Roger Bacon, Vitello, explanation of the rainbow), magnetism (Peter the Pilgrim). Mathematics and experiment in medieval natural philosophy. Achievements and the role of medieval natural philosophy, the continuity problem.
The Renaissance: general historical, social, intellectual, educational, material and economic circumstances. Renaissance science as a destructive phase of the scientific revolution. Interweaving of art, technology and natural philosophy, a new attitude toward experiment and science.
Restoration of Neoplatonic and Stoic ideas (Petrić and Bruno) and interest for Archimedes' approach to physics (Soto, Tartaglia, Benedetti, del Monte, Stevin, Cardano). Optics, magnetism and atomism in the Renaissance.
Renaissance astronomy and consequences for the natural philosophy: Copernicus, Brache, Kepler.
Scientific revolution in 17th century: general historical, social, intellectual, educational, material and economic circumstances. Shaping of the new worldview and research methodology regarding nature (instrumental experience, mathematical description of the phenomena).
Galilei, Descartes, Gilbert.
Newton and the development of classical mechanics.
Thermodynamics: development of the experimental methods and concepts. Heat theory. Energy and entropy, laws of thermodynamics. Kinetic gas theory and statistical physics.
Modern optics: completing the development in geometrical optics, velocity of light, theories of light (Newton, Huygens, Descartes). Development of the wave optics in 19th century.
Electrodynamics: Coulomb's law, electric currents, electromagnetic induction, Faraday's conception of the field.
Maxwell's electrodynamics, electromagnetic waves. Theory of relativity.
Modern atomic theory of matter: mechanical, chemical and electric atom. New experimental devices: radioactivity, electron and atomic nucleus. First models of the complex atom.
Planck's law of the black body radiation, Einstein's work on radiation, Bohr's model of atom. The old quantum mechanics.
Compton's effect, de Broglie's hypothesis. Correspondence principle, Heisenberg's matrix mechanics and Schrödinger's wave mechanics. Quantum mechanics and classical physics. Quantum mechanics and technology: nature of the experience with atomic objects.

Students are required to regularly attend classes, read the weekly texts and prepare for the seminar discussion topics in advance and write a seminar paper.

The exam is oral, at the end of the course. A student is evaluated on the basis of the knowledge demonstrated at the lecture and seminar discussions, knowledge demonstrated at the exam, and on the basis of the seminar paper grade.
  1. I. Supek, Povijest fizike, Školska knjiga, Zagreb, 1990
  2. D. C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B.C. to A.D. 1450, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1992.
  3. R. Sorabji, Matter, Space, and Motion: Theories in Antiquity and Their Sequel, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1988.
  4. P. Rossi, The Birth of Modern Science, Blackwell, Oxford, 2001.
  5. S. Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998.
  6. M. Jammer: The Conceptual Development of Quantum Mechanics, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1966.
Prerequisit for:
Enrollment :
Passed : Fundamentals of Physics 4
9. semester
Mandatory course - Mandatory studij - Physics Education
Consultations schedule:


Repository is empty


No polls currently selected on this page!