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.

Some History and Science FAQs

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 there a thesis 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 “anything and everything.” 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.

How do I declare my concentration in History and Science?

Declaring Your Concentration in History and Science

Welcome to History and Science! We’re glad you’re going to join us! The process for declaring your concentration is straightforward, and you can complete it by taking the following steps:

1. Go to my.harvard.edu and follow the instructions to Declare or Change Concentration. Be sure to choose a track, and focus, within History and Science. If you change your mind about your track or focus later on, it’s a simple process to update it. The deadline for the Class of 2023 to submit the declaration of concentration is Thursday, November 19, 2020.

2. Complete a Courses in Concentration form. A separate form is available for each track and focus. We ask sophomores to submit the form at the beginning of their spring semester, but in the meantime, it can be used as a guide to plan the courses you will take for concentration credit. We ask all concentrators to complete a new form, or update their most recent one, at least once each year. The form is not binding, and can be revised until the second semester of the senior year.

3. Sign up for our office hours. If you have any questions about concentration requirements, tutorial courses, or any aspect of the undergraduate program, please feel free to contact Allie Belser, Manager of Student Programs, or Prof. Anne Harrington, Director of Undergraduate Studies. We do not require that you meet with us before the concentration declaration deadline, but if you’d like to schedule an appointment, we’d be very happy to meet with you!

4. Welcome to History and Science, one of the most flexible, personal and engaged concentrations in the College!

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. Rebecca Lemov, our Acting Director of Undergraduate Studies.  For contact information, see our Advising page.