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Research Report 1000 to 1500 words

Submit in .docx format, with Chicago Manual Style citations, including author-date in text citations with page numbers, and a full bibliography at the end. Only scholarly citations will be accepted. The assignment should be 1000-1500 words, not including the bibliography.

Students will choose a time and place in history, pre 1600. Suppose you are there, knowing everything you know today, and trying to do some science. Describe what you would do, the tools you would use, and how you would justify the value of your project to the people around you. Briefly describe each of the following, with citations where appropriate:

Time and Place
Short Description of Proposed Project
People’s Beliefs About the Subject in that Time and Place
Tools and Materials
Rough Research Plan
Justification of Project to the Community



HPS100 Research Report


Student Number:


Time and Place

Short Description of Proposed Project

People’s Beliefs About the Subject in that Time and Place

Tools and Materials

Rough Research Plan

Justification of Project to the Community

There are no sources in the current document.


Research Report Rubric


· Are the sentences grammatical and properly spelled?

· Are paragraph breaks used appropriately?

· Is the writing clear and simple?


· Are the important historical claims cited properly?

· Are the citations formatted in the specified way (Chicago Manual Style)?

· Are there sufficient sources to cover the major claims in the research?

· Are there at least 5 scholarly citations used?


· Is the project described in enough detail to understand and evaluate it?

· Are the relevant tools and materials identified?

· Is there enough information about people’s beliefs in that time and place to tell whether they would find the proposal appealing?

Viability of the Proposal

· Does the justification to the community sound like it would be convincing to them?

· Does the project sound within the realm of possibility, assuming the community buys in?

· Does the proposal draw on materials and tools that would be available in that time and place?


This is a sample provided to students to get a sense of what a good research report can look like. Please do not use any part of it as your own! It is meant as inspiration only. Also please note that it may not have citations formatted in Chicago Manual Style, which is required this semester.

HPS100 Research Report

Time and Place: 1520s in Tenochtitlan, Central Mexico.

Short Description of Proposed Project:

In the early 1520s, the Spanish introduced smallpox into Aztec society. The seriousness of this virus coupled with a lack of immunity, (Aveni, 1991) left the Aztec population decimated by an estimated 15 million casualties (Schneider & McDonald, 2003). The immunity promised by variolation would have been very valuable at this time considering the fact that the Aztecs had no effective defence against smallpox (Bungum, 2003).

Variolation, also known as inoculation, is the deliberate infection of an individual with the variola virus (Cunha, 2003). A survivor of this procedure would not only experience a less severe case of smallpox but would also be rendered permanently immune (Cunha, 2003). Variolation’s 1-2% case fatality rate as opposed to the 25% rate of natural infection (Fenner, 2006), provides a viable path towards immunity (Schneider & McDonald, 2003), and would have been especially beneficial to the Aztecs.

Through a small-scale medical trial funded by a noble (pipiltin), this project will attempt to prove the effectiveness of variolation in increasing survival rates and reducing the effects of smallpox. The results of this trial would then begin the process of the mass implementation of variolation among the general population of Tenochtitlan.

People’s Beliefs About the Subject in that Time and Place:

Variolation, with roots in ancient China, India and Egypt is a relatively ancient procedure (Cunha, 2003). The Chinese, for example, are known to have used variolation for smallpox in the 11th century (Bungum, 2003). This specific procedure would not have been known to the Aztecs.

Although the Aztecs had a well-structured medical and surgical system (Guerra, 1966), they did not have any effective treatments for smallpox (Hopkins, 2002). Smallpox may have been treated by herbs and skin remedies or religious rituals (Guerra, 1966), which would not have been effective due to the disease’s viral nature.

Although they were not familiar with variolation, they would have been familiar with epidemics (Guerra, 1966). This understanding of the devastating power of disease would be immensely beneficial to the justification of my project.

Tools and Materials:

For funding, I would appeal to a member of the noble class (pipiltin). This individual would not only have the means to fund the experiment, but also the ability to present a case for mass inoculation before the emperor who would have the power to implement my plan (Avalos, 1995). In return, the noble and his family would be offered primary access to variolation and extensive medical care after the medical trial.

The nearby cities of Tepeca and Tlaxcala would have experienced a wave of smallpox months before Tenochtitlan (McCaa, 1995) and fifty infected people would be procured from there by the noble. They would be transported to Tenochtitlan in the very early non-contagious stages of their illness (Bungum, 2003) so as not to cause widespread infection. Fifty healthy subjects would also be procured by the benefactor and kept separate from the infected subjects.

I would also enlist the aid of ten Aztec doctors such as the texoxola (general surgeon) and the tezoc (phlebotomist) (Guerra, 1966) who would be very helpful in the care of the inoculated and infected subjects. Their upkeep would be provided by the noble.

Surgical tools such as the Aztec’s lancets (tecouani), flint and obsidian instruments, knives (itzli), and suture materials (tzontli) (Guerra, 1966) would prove beneficial to the overall procedure. The texoxola and tezoc (Guerra, 1966) would also be helpful with guidance on the use of these instruments.

Observations such as the health of each patient, at each stage of their illness, as well as charts, diagrams, and drawings would be painted on amate (bark paper) which would have been used extensively during this time (Binnqüist, Quintanar-Isaías, & Vander Meeren, 2012).

Rough Research Plan:

My specific plan would proceed in three phases. Firstly, the Aztec doctors and I would be variolated to ensure immunity in our work. Recovery would be followed by the inoculation of the fifty healthy subjects. Material from the ripe pustules of the already infected patients, would be threaded into minor incisions on the arms of the healthy subjects (Dimsdale, 1767). The tecouani and the itzli would be used for the incisions and the tzontli would be used for the threading. After inoculation, the variolated subjects as well as the originally infected subjects would be closely observed over a two-four-week period (Dimsdale, 1767). Zero to one deaths will be expected among the fifty who were inoculated, while twelve to thirteen deaths will be expected from the subjects who got the disease naturally (Fenner, 2006). The overwhelming success of this trial would propel it to the next phase.

Secondly, the benefactor would be briefed on the results of the trial. This should lead to the presentation of a case for the inoculation of the general public at the Tlacditlán Courts (appellate courts). The high success rate of the trial will provide sufficient evidence of the effectiveness of variolation. An appeal to the emperor (Avalos, 1995) would follow. Moctezuma II, the emperor at the time, would have the unlimited power (Avalos, 1995), and resources to implement variolation throughout the city.

Following approval, the final phase would be the mass implementation of variolation among the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan. Following Catherine the Great’s example, clinics would be set up (Schneider & McDonald, 2003) in every calpulli where people would be variolated by trained Aztec doctors. The variolation of farmers and the army would be prioritized in order to avoid famine and maintain a strong defense against the Spanish (Hughes, 2000). The remaining population would be variolated in stages in order to avoid mass spread.

Justification of Project to the Community:

As described above, the small-scale trial would show the legitimacy of inoculation. The drastic lowering of the death rate from 25% to 1-2% (Fenner, 2006) should constitute sufficient evidence for the convincing of my benefactor, the courts, and the emperor. The lack of any effective treatments for smallpox (Hopkins, 2002) would also create a strong interest in variolation.

It is believed that Tenochtitlan experienced its wave of smallpox months after other surrounding cities (McCaa, 1995). Evidently, the people of Tenochtitlan would have had some understanding of the severity of smallpox which would make the prospect of immunity very appealing. With the threat of the Spanish on the horizon (Hughes, 2000), the people of Tenochtitlan would be in dire need of a strong and immune army and workforce which would make this project all the more important.

Avalos, F. (1995). An Overview of the Legal System of the Aztec Empire. Law Library Journal, 86(2), 259-276.
Aveni, A. V. (1991). Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano. “Aztec Medicine, Health, and Nutrition” (Book Review). Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 65(4), 582-583.
Binnqüist, C. L., Quintanar-Isaías, A., & Vander Meeren, M. (2012). Mexican Bark Paper: Evidence of History of Tree Species Used and Their Fiber Characteristics. Economic Botany, 66(2), 138-148.
Bungum, T. J. (2003). Smallpox: A Review for Health Educators. American Journal of Health Education, 34(5), 278-283.
Cunha, B. E. (2003). Preparing for Smallpox: Occupational Health Nursing Update. AAOHN Journal, 51(5), 227-235.
Dimsdale, T. (1767). The Present Method of Inoculating for the Small-Pox. London.
Fenner, F. (2006). Smallpox and its Eradication, 1969 to 1980. In F. Fenner, Nature, Nurture and Chance: The Lives of Frank and Charles Fenner (pp. 137-158). Canberra: ANU Press.
Guerra, F. (1966). Aztec Medicine. Medical History, 10(4), 315-338.
Hopkins, D. R. (2002). The Greatest Killer: Smallpox in History. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Hughes, J. D. (2000). The European Biotic Invasion of Aztec Mexico. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 11(1), 105-112.
McCaa, R. (1995). Spanish and Nahuatl Views on Smallpox and Demographic Catastrophe in Mexico. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 25(3), 397-431.
Schneider, C. P., & McDonald, M. D. (2003). “The King of Terrors” Revisited: The Smallpox Vaccination Campaign and Its Lessons for Future Biopreparedness. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 31(4), 580-589.


This is a sample provided to students to get a sense of what a good research report can look like. Please do not use any part of it as your own! It is meant as inspiration only. Also please note that it may not have citations formatted in Chicago Manual Style, which is required this semester.

HPS100 Research Report

Time and Place

Greece, 300 C.E.

Short Description of Proposed Project and its Benefits

For my project I will invent the sealed-glass liquid thermometer as a medical instrument. The purpose of my research would be to develop a device to measure the relative body temperatures of sick and healthy individuals.

This project presents the challenges of finding the tools and materials required to build a thermometer, introducing the abstract idea of quantifying body heat, and justifying the idea that liquids expand and contract due to changes in temperature.

The main benefit of measuring the average human body temperature is that comparing somebody’s body temperature to the average could give an indication of how ill they are.

People’s Beliefs About the Subject in that Time and Place

The idea of the relationship between body temperature and health had already been established at this time.

Galen, a physician who lived from roughly 130 – 210 C.E., believed that individual differences, including the difference between sickness and health, arose out of the “proportions” of Aristotle’s four essential qualities (heat, cold, moisture, and dryness) within a person (Wisniak, 2000). Galen had even developed a concept of “degrees” of hot and cold to attempt to measure the proportions of these qualities within the body (Wisniak, 2000).

The Hippocratic Corpus also contained ideas about how diseases were the result of an excess of either hot or cold and dry or wet within the body (Lloyd, 1964). While the idea that these qualities were the sole cause of disease would be criticized by the author of On Ancient Medicine, this should not be an issue as all that matters for the purpose of my project is that the correlation between temperature and health is understood (Lloyd, 1964).

Tools and Materials

My required tools and materials are a thin, sealed glass tube with a bulb at one end and some fluid which will expand or contract with a change in temperature.

The discovery of glass blowing turned glass into a common place product in the Mediterranean area, and the process had been known as early as the first century B.C.E. (Grose, 1977). It should then be possible to actually construct the thermometer using the tools available at the time.

Early liquid thermometers used water or alcohol as the measurement fluid (Barnett, 1941). While mercury became very popular for use in thermometers in the 18th due to the high levels of purity it was available in, I will choose to use wine due to its greater expansion with change in temperature than water or mercury (Wisniak, 2000). Since I am running this project relatively early in the history of glass blowing, I will not have access to extremely fine glass tubes. The higher the expansion of the material, the better.

Rough Research Plan

My research plan would be to first calibrate my thermometers and then to measure an average human body temperature.

Since it would be impossible to manufacture identical thermometers at this time, I believe it would be simplest to calibrate my thermometers using the “two-point calibration” method used in Florence during the early days of thermometry. Pick two different, convenient temperatures, for example that of snow and melting butter, and set the difference between these temperatures to be a convenient number of degrees. For example, the temperature of the snow could be marked as 0 degrees and that of melting butter could be 100 degrees (Boyer, 1942). Then, all other temperatures are measured relative to these.

Using this two-point calibration method, I could calibrate a new thermometer by heating or cooling it to my reference temperatures along with a previously calibrated thermometer. This way, the two non-identical thermometers would return similar measurements.

After solving the calibration problem, I would use my thermometer to measure the temperature of a large number of healthy individuals, and roughly make a marking of the height of the liquid in my thermometer each time. I would take the average of these markings as the natural body temperature.

From there, the thermometer could be used to measure people’s body temperatures in an attempt to “measure” their health.

Justification of Project to the Community

Given how the relationship between body heat and health was already firmly established by Galen and the Hippocratic corpus, so it should not be hard to convince the people at this time that the thermometer is a useful medical instrument. As I had stated above, Galen had come up with the idea of quantifying heat using degrees so even my abstract measurement scale should pass.

What would be difficult is justifying this notion that fluids expand when heated and contract when cooled. I would justify this by taking advantage of the Greek belief that the Earth was made up of four elements: fire, earth, water, and air. Aristotle had postulated that these elements were each characterized a particular combination of four properties: hot, cold, wet, and dry. Water was believed to be wet and cold, while air was believed to be wet and hot (Bolzan, 1976). I would argue that as water is heated, it becomes more “air-like”, and thus takes up more space, since air spreads itself out.


Barnett, M. K. (1941). A Brief History of Thermometry. Journal of Chemical Education, 358-364.
Bolzan, J. E. (1976). Chemical Combinaiton According to Aristotle. Ambix, 134-144.
Boyer, C. B. (1942). Early Principles in the Calibration of Thermometers. American Journal of Physics, 176-180.
Grose, D. F. (1977). Early Blown Glass: The Western Evidence. Journal of Glass Studies, 9-29.
Lloyd, G. E. (1964). The Hot and the Cold, the Dry and the Wet in Greek Philosophy. The Journal for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, 92-106.
Wisniak, J. (2000). The Thermometer—From The Feeling To The Instrument. The Chemical Educator, 88-91.


This is a sample provided to students to get a sense of what a good research report can look like. Please do not use any part of it as your own! It is meant as inspiration only. Also please note that it may not have citations formatted in Chicago Manual Style, which is required this semester.

HPS100 Research Report

Time and Place

Egypt, 171 CE.

Short Description of Proposed Project & Benefits

I propose to prove the law of refraction as it is known today in modern optics to solidify people’s understanding of the concept of refraction in the year 171 CE, Egypt.

My project revolves around proving an accurate formula for refraction represented today by Snell’s Law, which states that the sines of the angles of refraction and incidence are proportional (Mihas, 2008). Refraction is an important property of light, and understanding the mathematics behind it can speed the development of various tools that were not widely available at the time, such as correction lenses for the eyes, which only became available in the 13th century (Enoch, 1998). Lenses are essentially refracting surfaces that were developed using the law of refraction to change the bending of light and consequently fix impaired vision (Enoch, 1998).

To carry out this project, I would use Ptolemy’s experiment as a template. Ptolemy was unsuccessful in deducing the law of refraction because he had another hypothesis in mind and was not expecting his predictions to be refuted (Riley, 1995). However, I would perform my project open-mindedly because I am aware of the modern Snell’s Law and can apply it accordingly.

People’s Beliefs About the Subject in that Time and Place

One of the main figures in Alexandria, Egypt that influenced the study of optics and refraction was Claudius Ptolemy, who lived in the second century CE (Feke, 2018). Refraction is a concept that explains the bending of light as it encounters different mediums, such as water, in relation to the angle of incidence and the angle of refraction. By the time Ptolemy died in 170 CE, people were still not aware of the Snell’s Law due to the failure of Ptolemy’s experiments to deduce the relationship between the two angles accurately (Smith, Ptolemy’s Search for a Law of Refraction: A Case-Study in the Classical Methodology of “Saving the Appearances” and its Limitations, 1982).

Therefore, it is expected that in the context of Egypt in the year 171 CE, after the death of Ptolemy, people’s beliefs about refraction were limited and were based on the experiments that Ptolemy published and left behind. A major experiment he performed resulted in his proposal of a formula that described a direct proportionality between the angles of incidence and refraction, which is deemed as an incorrect relationship today (Riley, 1995). However, this was the most accurate experiment at the time, and his observations were considered the up-to-date beliefs.

Tools and Materials

My project would require simple tools/materials that would be readily available in Egypt in 171 CE. Similar to Ptolemy’s experiments, I will need a plaque, water, and a glass semicylinder to observe refraction in two different mediums (Smith, Ptolemy and the Foundations of Ancient Mathematical Optics: A Source Based Guided, 1999). The tool that Ptolemy used to measure his angles was similar to a protractor, and he constructed it himself to approximate angles (Riley, 1995). Therefore, I would have to justify to my community after his death to lend me this device for use in my experiments.

Other than physical tools, I would need some notes that record Snell’s Law, which will be key to calculating the relationship between the angles I observe (Mihas, 2008). Since no calculators were available, I will need notes on the properties of the sine function to do these calculations by hand.

Rough Research Plan

My plan consists of recreating the three refraction experiments of Ptolemy, which involve testing refraction from air to water, air to glass, and water to glass (Smith, Ptolemy and the Foundations of Ancient Mathematical Optics: A Source Based Guided, 1999). A plaque would be placed on the medium of interest each time, and a sighting rod is used to mark the position of the ray without refraction (Smith, Ptolemy and the Foundations of Ancient Mathematical Optics: A Source Based Guided, 1999). After this rod is immersed into water, I would then mark the real position of the ray with refraction, and calculate the angle of refraction from there using Ptolemy’s instrument (Riley, 1995). To gain more accurate results, I will place the rod at angles that are multiples of 5 (0o, 5o, 10o, 15o..), rather than the multiples of 10 (0o, 10o, 20o…) like Ptolemy did, so I can have more data to work with at the end (Riley, 1995).

After the experiments, I should have a table with my angles of incidence, each one with a corresponding angle of refraction. The novel approach I will implement that Ptolemy didn’t is calculating the ratio of the sines of the angles of incidence and refraction, which should give me almost constant values for every medium, proving proportionality and Snell’s law of refraction (Riley, 1995) (Mihas, 2008).

Justification of Project to the Community

Ptolemy was known to be a reputable figure in science, so implementing aspects of his experiment into mine would be the best way that the community in Egypt would allow me to carry out the project and take my findings into consideration in their society. If I came up with my original experiment, I may not be given as much attention compared to if I built up on the work of previous reputable scholars.

The concept of refraction was explored not only by Ptolemy, but also by scientists before him. Euclid, for example, reported some observations he had about how light refracts as it enters different mediums (Mihas, 2008). Ptolemy was the first to carry out an experiment testing this phenomenon, inferring that people did not know much about the property of refraction, and society was awaiting a mathematical explanation for this (Mihas, 2008). Even after Ptolemy’s experiments, he was unable to come up with a solid law to explain his observations (Mihas, 2008). Therefore, my project explores a topic that needed clarification at the time, making my research meaningful and justifiable in that context.

Enoch, J. M. (1998). The Enigma of Early Lens Use. Technology and Culture, 273-291.
Feke, J. (2018). Ptolemy’s philosophy: mathematics as a way of life. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Mihas, P. (2008). Developing Ideas of Refraction, Lenses and Rainbow Through the Use of Historical Resources. Science & Education, 751-777.
Riley, M. T. (1995). Ptolemy’s Use of His Predecessors’ Data. Transactions of the American Philological Association, 221-250.
Smith, A. M. (1982). Ptolemy’s Search for a Law of Refraction: A Case-Study in the Classical Methodology of “Saving the Appearances” and its Limitations. Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 221-240.
Smith, A. M. (1999). Ptolemy and the Foundations of Ancient Mathematical Optics: A Source Based Guided. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society , 1,3,49,51,77,79,147,149-172.