About the Department

Introduction

History of Science is an academic discipline of great scope and international reach that connects the humanities and sciences. It deals with important questions about the rise and impact of science, medicine, and technology, both east and west, and at all periods, including the very recent past. We are one of the first departments in this field to have been established and are proud of our history!

Who we are: The Department of the History of Science is a lively interdisciplinary community of scholars, visiting researchers, and students.  We aim to understand science in historical and cultural context. We ask questions about how people actually did science, how the various sciences worked in practice, the basis of their authority, how scientific advances related to larger intellectual, cultural, social, and political trends and changes, and much more. Faculty and student interests range from antiquity and medieval times to the very recent period. One of the jewels of the Department is its Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, a research and teaching center that maintains permanent and temporary exhibitions open to the general public. The collections are included in our teaching and research programs.

What we do: As now practiced at Harvard and many other universities, history of science has expanded beyond its roots in intellectual history. We investigate how science has come to be what it is today and how it functions in the world. To answer questions like these, we incorporate to different degrees and in various combinations, history of medicine, history of technology, philosophy of science, visual and gender studies, material culture, social history, digital humanities, global history, and science, technology and society (science studies).  Our department is noted for the way we integrate different methods, themes, and topics. We run a popular undergraduate program and a highly sought-after graduate program, as well as offering public colloquia, exhibitions, seminars, and discussion groups.

Our programs: We have one of the largest undergraduate programs in North America. Our undergraduate students can combine the study of history of science and medicine (including medical ethics, health policy, and medical anthropology) with a selected area of science itself. Our graduate program trains students broadly and flexibly for today’s competitive academic market. All students gain expertise in a range of key approaches and areas in the field before specializing in a particular area or time period. Graduate students can also take secondary fields in Critical Media Practice, Studies of Women Gender and Sexuality, Film and Visual Studies, or Science, Technology, and Society.

Our resources: Harvard’s Widener Library -- the world's largest university library system – is available to all, as are the extraordinary holdings of rare books and manuscripts at the Houghton Library, the Countway Library of Medicine, the Libraries of Harvard’s remarkable art and science museums, , and the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. We enjoy close ties with the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where our students enjoy full cross-registration privileges, and frequently attend colloquia and other events



Inside Our Logo:


The Fibonacci Spiral

"Nature by Numbers," a brief movie by Cristobal Vila, inspired by the Fibonacci Series and the Golden Mean: