David Christian

(David Gilbert Christian)

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  • Born: June 30, 1946
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Historian









David Gilbert Christian, a historian and scholar of Russian history, has become notable for teaching and promoting the emerging discipline of Big History. In 1989 he began teaching the first course on the topic, examining history from the Big Bang to the present using a multidisciplinary approach with the assistance of scholars in diverse specializations from the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Big History frames human history in terms of cosmic, geological, and biological history. Christian is credited with coining the term Big History and he serves as president of the International Big History Association. Christian's best-selling Teaching Company course titled Big History caught the attention of philanthropist Bill Gates, who is personally funding Christian's efforts to develop a program to bring the course to secondary-school students worldwide.

Quotes About
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All religions, all indigenous traditions, all origin stories provide a large map of where you are.
An egg is a beautiful, sophisticated thing that can create even more sophisticated things, such as chickens. And we know in our heart of hearts that the universe does not travel from mush to complexity. In fact, this gut instinct is reflected in one of the most fundamental laws of physics, the second law of thermodynamics, or the law of entropy. Travel
Big History studies the history of everything, offering a way of making sense of our world and our role within it. History
Every kid goes to school full of questions about meaning. You know, 'What's my place in the universe? What does it mean to be a human being? What are human beings?' Existing courses cannot help you answer those questions. They can't even help you ask them.
Gravity is more powerful where there's more stuff.
Humans are remarkable: the first species in almost four billion years of life on earth that dominates the biosphere. This gives us the power, in principle, to build societies in which everyone flourishes. But it also creates great dangers because it is not clear that we really understand how to use our potentially devastating powers. Life ;Power
I believe human beings mark a threshold in the development of the planet, of course, but it is only part of the picture. What Big History can do is show us the nature of our complexity and fragility and the dangers that face us, but it can also show us our power, with collective learning. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Nature ;History
I had this feeling that, somehow, we ought to be teaching not just the history of particular nations or particular regions, but the history of humanity. History
I think what I was after was a unifying story that could bring everything together, that could give me a sense of the whole of history. History
If historians don't tell stories at the scales of creation myths, someone else will.
In literature classes, you don't learn about genes; in physics classes you don't learn about human evolution. So you get a fragmented view of the world. That makes it hard to find meaning in education. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Learning to domesticate the horse was a sort of energy revolution. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Living organisms are created by chemistry. We are huge packages of chemicals.
Modern scientific knowledge appeared piecemeal. Historians wrote about human history; physicists tackled the material world; and biologists studied the world of living organisms. But there were few links between these disciplines, as researchers focused on getting the details right. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;History
Our goal is to see Big History become a normal part of high school curricula. I'd love to see it being taught in lots of languages. A global course. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;History
Unfortunately, historians have become so absorbed in detailed research that they have tended to neglect the job of building larger-scale maps of the past.
We, as extremely complex creatures, desperately need to know this story of how the universe creates complexity and why complexity means vulnerability and fragility.
What we normally define as history doesn't interest me. It's a constraint. History
When very large stars die, they create temperatures so high that protons begin to fuse in all sorts of exotic combinations, to form all the elements of the periodic table. If, like me, you're wearing a gold ring, it was forged in a supernova explosion.
You go to the cosmologists and ask how they tell the history of the universe; you go to the geologists, how do they tell the story of the earth, and the biologists, and then you string them together. And it turns out that when you string them together, if you do it carefully, there's a story that is coherent, engaging, fantastically interesting. History