Natural Sciences 3, the last General Education course in science with a primarily historical approach, will be discontinued next year.
The immediate reason for its removal was the decision of I. Bernard Cohen '37, professor of the History of Science and head of Nat Sci 3, to teach an upper level Social Science course in history of science. No replacement for Cohen could be found.
John H. Finley, Jr. '25, Eliot Professor of Greek Literature, chairman of the Committee on General Education, said yesterday that the change also reflects the conclusion of the 1959 Bruner Report that Gen Ed courses in Natural Science should "derive more directly from the logic and substance of science itself."
According to Finley, this recommendation has "increasingly overshadowed" the opinion of the 1945 Gen Ed committee, whose report urged a Natural Science course oriented in the "social and intellectual context" of scientific ideas.
Many science professors have felt that the historical approach is not in fact the best method of teaching science in general education, and have been reluctant to work in courses based on the 1945 plan, Finley added. They object to courses in which such material is taught by a non-scientist.
A science department member with experience in general education commented that the disappearance of Nat Sci 3 "gives prominence to the long established fact that the committee's original doctrine is inapplicable at Harvard, where science is concerned with research and the business at hand."
Finley emphasized, however, that Natural Science courses offered next year and in the future will not entirely ignore the 1945 statement that "the history of science is a part of science."
He cited as an example Natural Sciences 4, to be given again in 1962-3 by Leonard K. Nash '39, professor of Chemistry. Although the core of Nat Sci 4 is chemistry rather than history, an effort is made to trace the historical development of chemical theories and methods. "The historical approach has not been given up," Finley asserted, "but it is no longer central."