AU Holds Lecture to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Interdisciplinary Science Course

AU Holds Lecture to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Interdisciplinary Science Course
Dr. William Vaughan, professor of Philosophy, introduces Dr. Allan M. Brandt, Kass Professor of the History of Medicine and Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, at a lecture held to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of an Interdisciplinary Science Course at Ashland University.

3/31/17 ASHLAND, Ohio – A lecture presented by Dr. Allan M. Brandt, Kass Professor of the History of Medicine and Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, was held on the AU campus March 29 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of an Interdisciplinary Science Course at Ashland University.

Dr. Brandt spoke to an audience of nearly 250 people on the topic, “The Tobacco Pandemic and Global Governance: Historical and ethical perspectives on the persistence of smoking in the 21st century.” Brandt holds a joint appointment between the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Medical School. 

The occasion for the evening’s lecture was the 50th anniversary of AU’s interdisciplinary course Science as a Cultural Force team taught by a faculty member from the humanities and another from the sciences. The course, first taught in 1967, was the suggestion of C.S. Lewis.

In 1962, Dr. Tom Vanosdall, a science professor at Ashland University, started corresponding with well-known public intellectuals, (including Lewis Mumford, C.S. Lewis, and C. P. Snow), about various intellectual topics. One such topic was the relationship between science and ethics.

Professor Vanosdall thought it was important to seek out viewpoints from other disciplines. He started developing a unique course that would require plural perspectives, and would be team-taught by a scientist and another discipline in the humanities, to specifically bring the conflicts and divergent viewpoints of science and values together in the same class.

Since 1967, the Science as a Cultural Force course has addressed a variety of topics including the teaching of evolution vs. creationism, the development of nuclear weapons, and issues surrounding the tobacco wars.  

Dr. Brandt spent the day on the AU campus talking with various classes and student groups, including students in the Honors Program. 

“As we spoke briefly after the program, he emphasized how impressed he has been with Ashland students and the good questions they asked throughout the day and evening,” said Dr. Dawn Weber, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “He also made a point to emphasize how truly fortunate we are to have such excellent faculty within the arts and sciences.”

Dr. William Vaughan, professor of Philosophy, and Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, trustees’ distinguished professor of Chemistry, organized the lecture and are currently teaching the Science as a Cultural Force course.

Dr. Brandt served as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 2008 to 2012. He earned his undergraduate degree at Brandeis University and a Ph.D. in American History from Columbia University. His work focuses on social and ethical aspects of health, disease, medical practices, and global health in the 20th century. Brandt is the author of No Magic Bullet:  A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States since 1880 (1987); and co-editor of Morality and Health (1997).  He has written on the social history of epidemic disease; the history of public health and health policy; and the history of human experimentation among other topics.  His book on the social and cultural history of cigarette smoking in the U.S., The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America, was published by Basic Books in 2007 (paperback, 2009).   The book received the Bancroft Prize from Columbia University in 2008 and the Welch Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine in 2011. Dr. Brandt has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Ashland University, ranked in the top tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2017, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.                                                                                ###

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