Loading...

STS203: History of Technology

Unit 2: Eastern Transmissions   The Chinese printed with movable type well before Gutenberg’s press (1450) and embarked on voyages of discovery well before Columbus (1492). It is important to recover the global story behind major technological developments such as these and to avoid heroic narratives that simplistically attribute inventions to popularized individuals. Indeed, multiple individuals working independently may claim the very same invention – e.g. both Leibniz and Newton contended for calculus.
 
The decline of the Roman Empire in the West (Unit 1) meant that city life and its structures fell into disrepair. The Christian world, which was more strongly rooted in agriculture and spirituality than the Roman world, showed less interest in Greco-Roman mathematics and philosophy (“pagan” learning). It was rather the Arabic world, including the Abbasid Dynasty, which preserved this intellectual and engineering tradition. When Latin-speaking Christian authors began reconsidering the pagan legacy (Unit 3), they often found that the teachings had been translated into Arabic.
 
This unit introduces the technological achievements of ancient and medieval China and discusses how the westward Mongol expansion transferred Chinese technologies to Europe. You will then examine the Arabic preservation of Greco-Roman ideas, particularly in the disciplines of mathematics and alchemy. The link between centralized state authority and technological advancement, which we witnessed in the previous unit, is clear again in Chinese and Arabic history. These Eastern influences became foundations for Western science and technology in centuries to come.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 7 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 4.25 hours
☐    Subunit 2.1.1: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 2.1.2: 1.75 hours

☐    Subunit 2.1.3: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 2.75 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- identify and explain Chinese technologies that influenced the West; - explain Mongol technological superiority in battle; - define the Arabic contribution to mathematics and alchemy; and - explain how to use an astrolabe to tell time.

2.1 Chinese and Mongol Technology   2.1.1 China and the West   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ China and Europe: “China’s Gifts to the West” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ China and Europe: “China's Gifts to the West” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and find the PDF file link at the lower-left corner of the webpage. Click on the link to access the PDF file, and then scroll down to read the following sections: “China’s Gifts to the West: Introduction,” “Paper,” “Printing,” “Gunpowder,” and “Conclusion.” Pay special attention to how paper entered the West, to Chinese print technology, and to how China and the West may have applied gunpowder in different ways.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour.  
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.2 Exploration and Trade   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ The Song Dynasty in China: “Shipbuilding and the Compass” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ The Song Dynasty in China: “Shipbuilding and the Compass” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and read this brief webpage for an introduction to shipbuilding and the compass during the Song Dynasty.
 
Reading and note-taking should take less than 15 minutes.  
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Asia Society: Jean Johnson’s “Chinese Trade in the Indian Ocean” Link: Asia Society: Jean Johnson’s “Chinese Trade in the Indian Ocean” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Click on the link above, and read the entire article for an overview of the Ming Dynasty and its maritime history, including the voyages of Zheng He. Make sure to click on the “next” link at the end of each webpage to read all 3 pages of the article.
     
    Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.  
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.3 Mongol Technology   - Lecture: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ The Mongols in World History: “A New Look at Mongol Contributions,” “All the Khan’s Horses,” “Mongol Support of Artisans,” and “Beginnings of Mongol Collapse: Public Works Failures” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ The Mongols in World History: “A New Look at Mongol Contributions”, “All the Khan’s Horses”, “Mongol Support of Artisans”, and “The Beginnings of Mongol Collapse: Public Works Failures” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the links above, and read the four selections for an introduction to the Mongol era and its technological history. Notice how the Mongols incorporated diverse cultures and founded a veritable civilization, and recognize how water-control of major rivers remained a critical problem in that part of the world. For “All the Khan’s Horses,” click on the link above, and select the link at the top of the webpage to open the PDF file. 
 
Studying these readings should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

2.2 Abbasid Dynasty   2.2.1 Translation Movement   - Lecture: YouTube: Yale University’s Open Yale Courses: Paul Freedman’s “Lecture 16: The Splendor of the Abbasid Period” Link: YouTube: Yale University’s Open Yale Courses: Paul Freedman’s “Lecture 16: The Splendor of the Abbasid Period” (YouTube)
 
Also available in: HTML, Adobe Flash, Mp3 or QuickTime

 Instructions: Click on the link above, and view Dr. Freedman’s
lecture on the Abbasid Dynasty. You may also click on the link above
to view the transcript of the lecture and to read along with the
transcript as you view the lecture. Pay particular attention to the
accomplishments of the House of Wisdom. The lecture covers the
topics outlined in subunits 2.2.1 and 2.2.2.  
    
 Viewing the lecture and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms
of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.2 Mathematics   Note: This topic is covered by the resource assigned below subunit 2.2.1. Pay attention to the Arabic innovations in mathematics

2.2.3 The Astrolabe   - Web Media: TED Talks: “Tom Wujec Demos the 13th-century Astrolabe” Link: TED Talks: “Tom Wujec Demos the 13th-century Astrolabe” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and watch Wujec’s short explanation of the thirteenth-century astrolabe and the major steps in using an astrolabe to tell time. The instrument was also essential for navigational purposes. You may also select your preferred language from the drop down menu to view the transcript.
 
Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
                     
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.4 Alchemy   - Reading: Ahmad Y. al-Hassan’s History of Science and Technology in Islam: “Part III: Technology Transfer in the Chemical Industries” Link: Ahmad Y. al-Hassan’s History of Science and Technology in Islam: ** “Part III: Technology Transfer in the Chemical Industries” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and read Part III in its entirety for a close look at the sort of chemical knowledge that passed from Islamic to Western civilization during the medieval period. You may stop at “Perfumes and Rosewater.”   

 Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

Unit 2 Assessment   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Assessment” (HTML)

 Instructions: Complete the linked assessment.  
    
 You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in
order to access this quiz. If you do not yet have an account, you
will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the
link.