Why History and Science

We may be a good choice for you if:

You would like to do significant work in some area of science (any field taught in the College) and combine it with study of the historical emergence of science as the most authoritative and powerful means we have of knowing the world.

You are interested in Big Questions  the existence of God, the nature of free will, the roots of human morality, and more – and would like to understand the ways in which science has shaped or is shaping the ways in which we think about them.

You are interested in the ways in which science is affected by (and in turn affects) important issues in politics, industry and policy, whether climate change, the teaching of evolution in the public schools, the patenting of genes and new forms of life, and more.

You are considering attending medical school, and would like a concentration that allows you to count many of your premed science requirements, while making it possible for you to take classes and do advanced research in the history of medicine, medical anthropology, and health policy.

You are – or aspire to be – a person who is equally literate in the world of science and the world of the humanities and the social sciences.

You would value a concentration that cares deeply about teaching, provides abundant opportunities for interaction with faculty, and will rigorously train you in essential analytic, presentation, and research skills that will be valuable for you, no matter what career you choose to pursue.

You would value a concentration that will take you and your aspirations seriously: where you can study abroad and receive concentration credit, where you will receive extensive support in the course of writing a senior thesis (if you choose to do so) and where you can publish your own work in the only undergraduate history of science journal in the country.

What are my options? 

The concentration in History and Science has two tracks that provide students with high levels of flexibility. Both of the tracks offer an honors and a non-honors option.

The Science and Society track is designed for students who want to combine history of science (and related areas) with training in a particular science area. We also have a special Medicine and Society option for pre-med students, as well as an option for students interested in Mind, Brain, Behavior or Technology, Information, and Society.

The History of Science track offers students the opportunity to take extra courses in history of science and related areas, and does not require any specific science courses. This track allows for more connections to be built to other relevant social science fields, such as sociology, philosophy, anthropology, or government.

Is a thesis a requirement? 

Writing a senior thesis is optional in both tracks of the concentration, but is required for most departmental and college honors. You do not need to decide whether you wish to write a senior thesis until the spring of your junior year. If, however, you choose the Medicine and Society option or the Mind, Brain, Behavior option within the Science and Society track, you will be expected to write a senior thesis. 

We also have a non-thesis honors option that allows students to receive a degree recommendation of “honors” (not “high” or “highest” honors) by completing an extra course requirement at the graduate-level (normally a history of science department 200-level course).

Are there other options besides a full concentration?

History and Science offers a secondary field in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.  Students may also pursue a joint concentration with History and Science as the primary (but not the allied) field.

What can students do with a History and Science degree?

The answer is “everything and anything.” A History and Science concentration closes few, if any, future career options. Our graduates have gone on to successful careers in many areas, including medicine, law, journalism, government, business, finance, and academia. Employers are increasingly looking for graduates who are not just literate but also analytically skilled in the social sciences, not just technically skilled in a special subject but able to see the larger cultural, social, and policy implications and impact of scientific and technical developments.

History and Science students have done extremely well in winning fellowships, including the Marshall, Rhodes, Mellon, Fulbright, Rockefeller, Rotary, Sheldon, Gates-Cambridge, and Ford Foundation Research grants, and are encouraged to apply for these and others. Our students also regularly win Hoopes Prizes for their senior thesis projects. Please see the Office of Career Services website for information about the broad range of fellowships and grants available to students.

For more information

If you are interested in learning more about what the History and Science concentration can offer you, or if you have more questions, please feel free to contact Allie Belser, our Manager of Student Programs, or Prof. Anne Harrington, our Director of Undergraduate Studies.  For contact information, see our Advising page.