Course code:



I - Introductory

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • ES - Environmental Science

Lab fee:


Typically offered:


This course, based on the book Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History by Penny Le Couter is designed to challenge students to think on a deep level about how an individual molecule can shape historical events and how these events can, in turn, have an impact on the field of chemistry. The unique focus is on the role of chemistry in history rather than on the history of chemistry.  Through the term, we will learn chemical principles to help us understand how molecules such as vitamin C, sugar, and progesterone have shaped global conflicts, how we perceive ourselves, and how we change the world around us.  Beyond the primary text, we will draw from current news reports, the text Organic Chemistry Principles in Context: A Story-Telling Historical Approach, and other relevant articles.  Evaluations are based on participation in classes, quizzes and labs, and a final project and presentation on a molecule of choice. 



Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.