Duration of Rotation:  Academic Year     


Prerequisite:  Have completed and approved Medicine I

In 1959, C. P. Snow described the relationship between two cultures -that of scientists and that of literary intellectuals- in the following terms: “Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension sometimes (particularly among the young) hostility and dislike, but most of all lack of understanding. They have a curious distorted image of each other.”  Jacob Bronowski, a mathematician plying his trade in the sciences and as a poet, literary critic, historian and philosopher of science, was uniquely qualified to address both scientists and literary intellectuals. As contribution to bridging this chasm he created a series of thirteen essays which he titled “The Ascent of Man” and which comprise the core of this course.  In the films Dr. Bronowski visits 27 countries recreating times from prehistoric to the Anthropocene and ranging over subjects as diverse as Stone Age tools and relativity theory. It is an impressive series: fresh, dramatic, visually powerful as it is comprehensive within the chosen format.  The films come across as lyrical, inspiring, and stimulating masterpieces on the way science came to be and what it means to society.  The scope of the course is obviously very broad. In order to make it more manageable it is organized chronologically by ages: Prehistoric, Medieval, Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution and Modernity. The films are broadly correlated with these historical periods. This course is designed to foster critical discussion among students of the health sciences that are pursuing a broadening of their health-oriented education to encompass history of science, the humanities and philosophical dimensions of science and through discussions achieve a new perspective not just on science, but on civilization itself.   Aristotle as well as Plato espoused what Socrates sagely said: “Philosophy begins with wonder.”

Students are expected to attend the viewings and to participate actively and constructively in the discussions that follow.  Evaluation will be based on the contents and quality of the student’s contributions to the discussion.  The discussions are directed at exploring two uniquely human qualities that underpin and form the rationale for the development of a more fruitful understanding of the humanistic context within which health and illness are moored. The first of these is the vision to imagine how the made world might be improved. The second is the capability to realize that vision by designing and building a better world. Through a close examination of the text/films and the ensuing critical discussions of the subjects raised in them as well as by the participants, avenues for exploring these visions will emerge that will afford tools for each individual to participate constructively in the Ascent of Man.  As Dr. Bronowski states: “Knowledge is not a loose-leaf notebook of facts. Above all it is a responsibility for the integrity of what we are, primarily of what we are as ethical creatures. The personal commitment of a man to his skill, the intellectual commitment and the emotional equipment working together as one, has made the Ascent of Man.’ Thus the full set of essays and discussions are directed at exploring new vistas that should widen the scope of interests and the quality of experiences of the student so as to help them attain a better understanding of the history and philosophy of science, and of the health sciences in particular.


Faculty in charge  :         Dr. Ángel A. Román-Franco