About History of Science & Science Studies

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine is an academic discipline of great scope and international reach that connects the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. 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, undergraduate and graduate students, visiting researchers, and affiliated faculty in other Harvard programs. We seek to understand the sciences, technology, and medicine in their historical, cultural, and current contexts, using history as a tool to help illuminate how knowledge of various kinds has come to be configured as it is.  Faculty and students are interested in topics and issues ranging from the history of ancient and early modern science to those of our contemporary moment:  from medieval Islamic hospitals and the correspondence networks of Charles Darwin to the great debates of our time in the health sciences, from smoking to new forms of surgery; the overlap of technology and politics; nuclear weapons and nuclear waste; technologies of genetic modification; global climate change; space and space travel; technologies of surveillance; psychiatry and the psychotherapies--just to name a few.  Department faculty are trained in a variety of fields: in history and history of science, physics, biology, anthropology, sociology, medicine, law, Science, Technology, and Society (STS), and philosophy.  We are methodologically pluralistic, encouraging students to draw on an array of approaches, among them book history, technical analyses, and economic history as well as filmmaking, material culture, participant-observation, and museology.

CHSI: One of the jewels of the Department is its Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, a research and teaching center that houses permanent and temporary exhibitions open to the general public. The collections are included in our teaching and research programs.

Our programs

We run a popular undergraduate program and a highly sought-after graduate program, as well as offering public colloquia, exhibitions, seminars, and discussion groups. 

The undergraduate program is among the largest in North America. Our undergraduates 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.