Secondary Field in History of Science

Students enrolled in a PhD program in GSAS may earn formal recognition for completing a secondary field in History of Science. Central to the intellectual mission of the department is endeavoring to understand the sciences, technology, and medicine in their historical, cultural, and current contexts. We employ historical as well as sociological, anthropological, and other methodologies to illuminate how knowledge of various kinds has come to be configured as it is today. Our approach is broadly interdisciplinary, explicitly connecting the sciences, social sciences, and humanities—globally and across time periods.

We have long welcomed students from other disciplines into our seminars and colloquia. Students choosing to deepen their engagement with History of Science by pursuing a secondary field will achieve an understanding of the role of science and associated fields, be encouraged to enrich their perspective on current affairs and the development of the past, and be granted flexibility in following their particular interests in departmental coursework. We offer such students access to a lively, engaged, and diverse scholarly community.


PhD students may apply to the Department of the History of Science to do a secondary field after completing one semester of study at Harvard. Interested students should meet with the departmental DGS to discuss making a formal application to the department and to draw up a tentative plan of coursework to fulfill the secondary field requirements.

The application consists of:

  1. A statement of interest in the History of Science, discussing any background in the discipline and addressing what the student hopes to achieve with the secondary field;
  2. A brief letter of recommendation/endorsement from a faculty member in the student’s home department;
  3. A statement of support from the DGS in the student’s home department.


Requirements for the secondary field are:

  1. Completion of 3003a, Historiography of the History of Science;
  2. Three additional courses in the department (including courses that count for departmental credit, e.g., in STS, HKS or in HASTS, MIT), at least two of which must be at the graduate level. An independent study (302) with a departmental faculty member may count toward this total. Only courses approved by the History of Science DGS count toward the secondary field requirements. All courses must be completed with a grade of B+ or higher.

See History of Science Department Secondary Field Requirements Worksheet.

Students must meet at least once each academic year with the HOS DGS to review progress.


GSAS Secondary Field form, signed by Student’s Home Department DGS and Secondary Field Department DGS, must be completed and submitted to FAS Registrar’s Office by Degree Application Deadline.