What is Science? Explaining Nature from Pythagoras to Popper, Stanford, Winter 2009

  • This is probably the best class I’ve taken at Stanford, and I’m an engineering major. The material is extremely interesting and thought provoking, Prof. McCaskey is awesome, and the work is 100% useful. Everyone should take this class!
  • the readings were time consuming and sometime difficult but totally worth the effort. the paper requirement was confusing at first, but after I heard his explanation, that because everyone came from different backgrounds and each person would want to focus on different things. it makes sense. 
  • John’s ability to engage students and make them excited about the material is what makes him such an excellent discussion leader.
  • Probably the best class I’ve taken at Stanford. All around fun, interesting, and informational.
  • One of the best I’ve taken at Stanford.
  • this man was enthusiastic, well spoken, and incredibly educated on the course’s information, which was no small feat as it covered 2500 years of Scientific theory and logic. Not only could he clearly and effectively explain course concepts, but he could encourage each and every student to articulate and communicate their own thoughts towards the topic of discussion. this amalgamation between expertise and ability to guide a discussion with students from varied backgrounds created for a very fruitful intellectual environment. This was my favorite course at Stanford.
  • all the material was off the greatest quality possible. from Newton to Aristotle, to Heisenberg, Dr. McCaskey picked the best works for a history of science course and organized them in a coherent way. this organization was not just chronological but to aid students in comparing and contrasting concepts and observing course themes.
  • it was my favorite course at stanford. this professor went above and beyond to help each and every student along. no matter what the problem he would accommodate the student. if the student had heath problems he would work with him to meet his needs. if there was a very smart but very quiet student in the room, the professor would engage the student in a special manner and help that student participate.
  • incredibly engaging, he wanted to get students talking and thinking about the material. he does a good job of leading students down to the concepts he wants us to understand. i think he provide solid comments on papers and was willing to help students with their topics. he was good at linking course topics together.
  • contagious enthusiasm for the material.
  • covered a lot of ground, sometimes with great depth
  • the grading criteria on the papers could be more clearly defined.
  • fun, insightful, and a good experience over all
  • all the reading was engaging, except for the boring history stuff. i think primary materials could have been used to provide historical context to the course, of which there was little to none. i think it was good that we focused on a few texts at a time.
  • feedback on paper topics and grading procedures was good. i think mccaskey did a good job of indicating what he wanted from me in my papers.
  • more guidance on potential topics would have been appreciated, but at the same time, it was good to have lots of freedom to write on topics that we found interesting. i think if topics were limited, we might have been able to have more histo [sic]
  • this course is awesome. keep it, please . this course was great because we had a wide range of students with a variety of academic backgrounds.
  • more should be done to publicize this course for students in the social and physical sciences. this course should be required for all students interested in science and those who actually use the scientific method.
  • Prof. McCaskey is AMAZING. His unbelievably thorough knowledge of this topic inspires students to want to learn the material even more. Plus he’s just an all-around awesome guy .
  • All of the readings were useful and interesting.
  • The papers were completely reasonable .
  • It would be good to have a little more direction on the papers. It was cool to have complete freedom, but a little initial guiding couldn’t hurt.

This is all (not a sample) of the unedited, written comments, both positive and negative, for “What is Science? Explaining Nature from Pythagoras to Popper,” a seminar course on the history of scientific method that I taught at Stanford in winter 2009. Students were upper-class undergraduates and grad students. The highlighting is mine.


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