Study Abroad Spotlight: The History of Science and the Influence of Religion

A new undergraduate course has been offered by the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, with a two-week study abroad component. The course, titled The History of Science and the Influence of Religion, was taught for the first time by Dr. Fraser Fleming, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the spring 2012 semester.

Dr. Fleming said he developed the course, based on his prior visits to these locations. "I visited these places in Europe, and I wanted to find a way to get students to have this experience, too," he explained. "It's important because there aren't many courses that blend science and religion and show the two are in harmony."

Samih Nassif, a senior chemistry major, said, "The course itself is pretty interesting as it tells the story of science through the eyes of religion. It's a nice outlet to give science students opportunities to visit other countries, experience other cultures and understand the history of how science has developed through the ages."

Twenty students registered for this three-credit class, which entailed four meetings throughout the spring and a two-week trip in May to Italy, Germany and Switzerland. This course has similarities to the Bayer School's Exploring the Environment of China study-abroad class, which is offered every two years.

"The plan is to offer this course every two years as well," Fleming explained. "We think the subject matter and the travel opportunity will appeal to a number of Bayer School students."

The key sites on the excursion to Europe included the Vatican, the Vatican Observatory and other museums in Rome and Munich. The students also toured the CERN supercollider in Switzerland. Other stops included visiting Kepler's home outside of Stuttgart, Germany.

"Going to Europe gave us opportunities to do things we never could have done otherwise," says Emilee Renk, senior chemistry major. "We visited CERN two months before the big Higgs Boson announcement. How many people can say that?"

The purpose of this class is to investigate how the roles of religion, culture and politics may have influenced scientists such as Galileo, Kepler and Einstein, covering the time periods of the Renaissance to the early 20th century. The course was built upon scientific concepts in chemistry, biology, physics and theology.

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