Working Groups

Early Sciences Working Group (ESWG)


Early Sciences Working Group


Coordinators: Shireen Hamza and Ardeta Gjikola

Faculty Sponsors: Shigehisa Kuriyama and Ahmed Ragab

ESWG Project Site


The Early Science Working Group (ESWG) brings graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty together to discuss current work in the fields of ancient, medieval and early modem science and medicine. Our primary goal is to provide a forum for student and faculty scholars to present and receive comments on their current research. Presenters at the working group share drafts of articles, dissertation chapters, and research from books in-progress or independent projects. Students and faculty have taken the opportunity to practice conference papers at the working group. Members of the group offer valuable feedback on the presentation and content of these talks.

Presenters at this year's working group include graduate students in the History and History of Science departments, a postdoctoral fellow in the History of Science department, and visiting scholars and faculty. Participants in the include students and faculty from the History and History of Science departments, department staff, and students and faculty from nearby universities.

The Early Science Working Group is particularly focused on promoting graduate student work, encouraging networking and the exchange of ideas between graduate students, and assisting graduate students at all levels of advancement. Graduate students present research papers and portions of prospectuses or dissertations. Students nearing the completion of their degrees practice job talks at the working group. More experienced students in the group, as well as faculty, are also a valuable professional resource for first, second, and third year graduate students. At the end of the spring semester, we will be organizing and hosting an informal conference and networking event for graduate students working on the early sciences at universities across the Northeast. The event will allow our widely dispersed scholarly community a chance to meet and familiarize themselves with each others work outside the more high-pressured, more faculty-centered atmosphere of the national History of Science Society conference. We look forward to working with graduate student peers at other schools to institutionalize the hosting of such an event by different regional universities each year.

We meet on a biweekly schedule, with approximately 12 meetings over the course of the year. Half of these meetings are set aside for graduate student presentations. We would also hope to host a conference on science and secrecy in early modem Europe. Speakers will include departmental faculty and students, as well as faculty from other institutions.

History of Medicine Working Group (HMWG)

History of Medicine Working Group


Coordinators: Angel Rodríguez and Frank Blibo
Faculty Sponsors: Allan M. Brandt and David S. Jones


HMWG Project Site


The History of Medicine Working Group is an interdisciplinary group that convenes on a biweekly basis throughout the academic year to discuss emerging scholarship in the history of health and medicine. The group has three main areas of focus:


  • Discussing, debating, and helping to shape participants' work-in-progress.
  • Engaging in cross-disciplinary conversations regarding methodological and theoretical approaches to the study of the history of medicine
  • Introducing the Harvard History of Medicine community to the work of local and visiting scholars via an intimate seminar setting.

For over fourteen consecutive years, this working group has brought together graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and distinguished faculty from GSAS, HMS, HSPH, and local universities (including MIT, Wellesley, and Boston University) to discuss emerging themes in the history of medicine and members' scholarly projects, and to foster the intellectual growth and professional development of our students. Funding from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has been crucial in enabling the History of Medicine Working Group to develop a sustained conversation about the relevance, character, and future direction of this particular branch of historical analysis, and to broaden our interaction with students and scholars from a wide range of departments, disciplines, and schools.

This interaction and critique has only become more important in recent years. At one time, the History of Medicine was merely the province of physicians-turned-amateur historians, who chronicled the history of their profession more as a hobby than for reasons of social analysis. In the waning decades of the twentieth century, however, the History of Medicine emerged as a crucial element in the intellectual arsenal with which pressing contemporary problems in medicine could be understood, made sense of, and ameliorated. Increasingly over the past decade, historians of medicine have been asked to bring their particular scholarly approach to bear on health issues of national and international importance - including rising health care costs and various crises in the cost and quality of medical care, the failure of 'war on' disease campaigns to effect reasonable decreases in mortality or morbidity, the persistence of inter- and intra-national health disparities, emerging global and local epidemics, medicalization (the redefinition of social and behavioral characteristics as health problems), ethical issues, medical activism, complementary & alternative medicine, and the balance between personal and social responsibility for controlling disease. In the thirteen years that the History of Medicine Working Group has held its seminars, historians of medicine have re-enfranchised and re-constituted many of the historical actors that had been omitted from the medical histories of the mid-twentieth century - the stories of allied health professionals, suffering patients, family caregivers, and minority activists have increasingly been integrated with more traditional considerations of the institutional world intellectual history of medicine. Even the definition of disease itself, once almost entirely the purview of sociological and anthropological scholarship, has increasingly become the object of nuanced historical analyses that blend intellectual, social, and cultural history with an acknowledgement of the material, biological reality of both the experiential suffering and the disease pathology under consideration.

Attendant with these shifts in the purview of the History of Medicine has been the increasing extra-disciplinary relevance of the field. The tools which Historians of Medicine have at their disposal to trace and interpret changes in medical practice have expanded to include analytic techniques from anthropology, sociology, epidemiology, literary theory, feminist theory, and cultural studies; at the same time, historians of medicine increasingly find themselves bringing the tools of history to bear on these other disciplines and participating in interdisciplinary scholarly conversations such as those on Health Policy or Science & Technology Studies. Our group interrogates these new developments, educating ourselves and training graduate students academically and professionally in the process.

Modern Sciences Working Group (MSWG)

Modern Sciences Working Group (MSWG)

Coordinators: Hannah Conway & Gustave Lester
Faculty Sponsors: Janet Browne and Peter Galison

MSWG Project Site

The Modern Sciences Working Group is a student-led forum for graduate students, faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and visiting scholars to share ideas and discuss their work. During the term it meets every Wednesday at noon, in Science Center 252.

Topics generally focus on the history of the physical, life, and social sciences post-1800, as well as the history of technology. Through regular meetings, the group generates lively and productive conversations about relevant topics, gives graduate students the opportunity to obtain useful feedback on their projects, and keep students in contact with scholars in the history of modern science community. It is funded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The Modern Sciences Working group is the product of a merger of the History of the Physical Sciences Group and the History of the Life Sciences / Environmental Science Group. The merger took placed when we realized that many of the graduate student attendees of the respective groups were writing on topics that cut across the traditional boundary between physics and biology. Further, insofar as historians of biology and physics continue to work on somewhat distinct sets of historical actors, we all encounter similar thematic and methodological opportunities and challenges. For these and other reasons, it has become increasingly obvious that historians of biology, physics, human and social sciences, and technology have much to say to and learn from one another.

Our primary aim is to encourage graduate students to present their research in-progress, including drafts of dissertation chapters, prospectuses, seminar papers, and practice conference talks. However, we supplement these presentations with outside speakers, graduate student led discussions of recent literature in the field, classic books and monographs, and other important materials, as well as with guest speakers.

Science, Technology and Society (STS)

STS Circle at Harvard

The STS Circle at Harvard is a group of doctoral students and recent PhDs who are interested in creating a space for interdisciplinary conversations about contemporary issues in science and technology that are relevant to people in fields such as anthropology, history of science, sociology, STS, law, government, public policy, and the natural sciences. We want to engage not only those who are working on intersections of science, politics, and public policy, but also those in the natural sciences, engineering, and architecture who have serious interest in exploring these areas together with social scientists and humanists.

There has been growing interest among graduate students and postdocs at Harvard in more systematic discussions related to STS. More and more dissertation writers and recent graduates find themselves working on exciting topics that intersect with STS at the edges of their respective home disciplines, and they are asking questions that often require new analytic tools that the conventional disciplines don’t necessarily offer. They would also like wider exposure to emerging STS scholarship that is not well-represented or organized at most universities, including Harvard. Our aim is to try to serve those interests through a series of activities throughout the academic year.

All meetings will take place on Mondays, from 12:15–2 p.m., in Pierce 100F, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 29 Oxford Street, unless otherwise noted. Sandwich lunches are provided. Please RSVP via the online form by Wednesday at 5 PM the week before.