Natural Sciences

How can humans understand the natural world? What is really there? How does it move? What are matter, energy, space, time, and light? What is life and how does it evolve? At St. John’s, students study physics, biology, and chemistry through books and experiments that help them face these difficult, basic questions and to see how they might be answered. The program ranges widely to explore quantum physics, relativity, and contemporary molecular biology.

NOTE

The natural sciences are a few of the many subjects studied in the college’s interdisciplinary great books curriculum. There are no majors at St. John’s. Instead, students explore all these subjects over the course of all four years. Learn more about St. John’s classes.

Reading List

Archimedes “On the Equilibrium of Planes,” “On Floating Bodies”

Aristotle Poetics, Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachaen Ethics, On Generation and Corruption, Politics, Parts of Animals, Generation of Animals

Amedeo Avogadro "Essay on a Manner of Determining the Relative Masses of the Elementary Molecules of Bodies”

Claude Berthollet “Excerpt from Essai de Statique Chimique”

Joseph Black “Extracts from Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry”

Stanislao Cannizzaro “Letter to Professor S. De Luca”

John Dalton “Extracts from A New System of Chemical Philosophy”

Hans Driesch “The Science and Philosophy of the Organism”

Euclid Elements

Daniel Fahrenheit “The Fahrenheit Scale”

Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac “On the Expansion of Gases by Heat,” “Memoir on the Combination of Gaseous Substances with Each Other”

William Harvey Motion of the Heart and Blood

Antoine Lavoisier Elements of Chemistry

Lucretius On the Nature of Things

Edme Mariotte Essays

Dmitri Mendeleev “The Periodic Law of the Chemical Elements”

Nicomachus Arithmetic

Blaise Pascal Treatise on the Equilibrium of Liquids

J.L. Proust “Excerpt from Sur Les Oxidations Metalliques”

Ptolemy Almagest

Hans Spemann “The Organizer-Effect in Embryonic Development” (Nobel Lecture 1935), “Embryonic Development and Induction”

J. J. Thomson “Extracts from System of Chemistry”

Rudolf Virchow “Cellular Pathology Lectures”

Apollonius Conics

Aristotle De Anima, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Categories

Francis Bacon Novum Organum

Nicolaus Copernicus On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres

René Descartes Geometry, Discourse on Method

Johannes Kepler Astronomia Nova

Blaise Pascal Generation of Conic Sections

Ptolemy Almagest

François Viète Introduction to the Analytical Art

André-Marie Ampère Essays

Daniel Bernoulli “On the Vibrating String”

Charles-Augustin de Coulomb “Excerpts from Coulomb’s Mémoires sur l’électricité et le magnétisme”

Richard Dedekind Essay on the Theory of Numbers

René Descartes Meditations, Rules for the Direction of the Mind

Leonhard Euler “Remarks on the Preceding Papers by Mr. Bernoulli”

Michael Faraday “Experimental Researches in Electricity”

Benjamin Franklin “Excerpt from several letters to Peter Collinson on the nature of electricity”

Galileo Galilei Two New Sciences

William Gilbert “De Magnete”

David Hume Treatise on Human Nature

Christiaan Huygens Treatise on Light, On the Movement of Bodies by Impact

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Monadology, Discourse on Metaphysics, Principles of Nature and Grace, Essays

James Clerk Maxwell “On Faraday’s Lines of Force.” “On Physical Lines of Force,” “A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field”

Isaac Newton Principia Mathematica

Jean-Antoine Nollet “Observations on Several New Electrical Phenomena”

Hans Christian Ørsted “Experiments concerning the efficacy of electric conflict on the magnetic needle”

Brook Taylor “On the motion of the stretched string”

Alessandro Volta “On the Electricity excited by the mere contact of conducting substances of different kinds”

Thomas Young “On the Nature of Light and Colors”

Niels Bohr “On the Spectrum of Hydrogen”

Theodor Boveri Essays

Louisde Broglie “Matter Waves”

Charles Darwin Origin of Species

Albert Einstein “Relativity,” “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,” “On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light,” “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity,” “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend upon its Energy Content?”

Michael Faraday “On the Absolute Quantity of Electricity Associated with the Particles or Atoms of Matter”

François Jacob & Jacques Monod Essays

George Beadle & Edward Tatum Essays

G. H. Hardy “Mendelian Proportions in a Mixed Population”

Georg Hegel Phenomenology of Mind

Werner Karl Heisenberg “Critique of the Physical Concepts of the Particle Picture”

Edmund Husserl The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology

James Watson & Francis Crick Essays

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck “Zoological Philosophy”

Nikolai Lobachevsky Theory of Parallels

Gregor Mendel “Experiments with Plant Hybridization”

Robert Andrews Millikan “The Electron”

Hermann Minkowski “Space and Time”

Thomas Morgan “Evolution and Genetics,” “The Chromosomes and Mendel's Two Laws,” “The Linkage Groups and the Chromosomes,” “Sex-Linked Inheritance,” “Crossing-Over”

Max Planck “The Quantum Hypothesis”

Ernest Rutherford “The Scattering of α & β Particles by Matter and the Structure of the Atom”

Erwin Schrödinger “Four Lectures of Wave Mechanics—First Lecture”

Joel Sussman Essays

Walter Sutton Essays

J. J. Thomson “Cathode Rays”

Albert Einstein Essays

Richard Feynman QED

G. H. Hardy A Course of Pure Mathematics

Georg Hegel Philosophy of Nature

Konrad Lorenz Studies in Animal and Human Behavior

Bertrand Russell An Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy

Computation

Computing Technology and Human Society

The information presented is for illustration purposes only and may not reflect the current reading list and preceptorial and study group offerings. Works listed are studied at one or both campuses, although not always in their entirety.

Senior Essay

Turning the World Inside-Out: Why the Newtonian Theory of Planetary Motion Supersedes the Ptolemaic

U.S. Naval Observatory

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

Chaos and Quanta: Two New Hypotheses in Max Plank’s Theory of Heat Radiation

Environmental Club

Student Group

The St. John’s Environmental Club is devoted to creating awareness on campus about issues relating to protection, conservation, preservation, and restoration—with an emphasis on educating and empowering students.

University of Maryland, Department of Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

Probabilistic Causality: On the Completeness and Elegance of Quantum Mechanics

Senior Essay

Technology as Symbol: Ernst Jünger and the Irruption of Technological Consciousness into Bourgeois Space

Senior Essay

To Be and Not to Be - Heisenberg’s Third Possibility: On Physics as an Art and a Language Immersed in the Strangeness of Nature in the Quantum World

Anne Arundel Medical Center

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

An Ethic for Milk and Honey: Hunting Instinct and the Obligations of Sportsmanship in Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac

Sustainability

Student Group

Senior Essay

Order and Human Nature in Vitruvius’ Ten Books on Architecture

Senior Essay

The Role of Beauty in Science as Seen in the Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen Paper and Responses to it Within the Context of Quantum Theory

Windward Education and Research Center

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

City of Hope, Department of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

The Concept of Mass in Newton’s Principia

Dutton Road Veterinary Clinic

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

Beyond the Flaming Ramparts: Dirac’s Symbolic Method

University of Pittsburgh Neurological Surgery Dept. Hillman Cancer Center

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

In Search of the Absolute—How Maxwell’s Electromagnetic Hammer Came Down on Relativity

George Mason University School of Physics Astronomy & Computational Sciences

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

Michael Faraday Describes Magnetism Heuristically

Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Tufts University, Advanced Integrated Circuits & Systems Lab

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

University of Maryland, Department of Physics, Physics Education Research Group

Internships

The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.