(48d) A Descriptive Study of a New Course on the History of Thermodynamics | AIChE

(48d) A Descriptive Study of a New Course on the History of Thermodynamics


Morrish, R. - Presenter, Colorado School of Mines
Buhrer, E., Colorado School of Mines
A new course on the history of thermodynamics titled “Thermo-Human Dynamics - Heat, Energy and Time” was developed and taught in the Spring of 2020 and Spring of 2022. The class was co-instructed by Prof. Eliza Buhrer, a historian, and Prof. Rachel Morrish, a chemical engineer. This presentation provides a descriptive study of the course design as well as student perspectives and outcomes. The class itself examines how discovery of the 1st and 2nd Laws of thermodynamics not only transformed scientists’ understanding of the universe, but also had a significant impact on nineteenth and twentieth century art, literature, religion, philosophy, and social theory. The course was run as a weekly, 3 hour discussion seminar interspersed with interactive exercises, student presentations, and writing workshops. Students were led through a series of historical and cultural readings, bringing to light often overlooked connections between science and the arts. Assignments included weekly writing exercises, an oral biography of a thermodynamicist, and a creative project artistically portraying a thermodynamics concept. We will discuss the advantages and challenges of developing a cohesive course bridging two disciplines, and how studying thermodynamics through a historical lens can deepen students’ understanding of its fundamental principles.