History of science and technology

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The history of science and technology (HST) is a field of history which examines how understanding of the natural world (science) and ability to manipulate it (technology) have changed over the centuries. This academic discipline also studies the cultural, economic, and political impacts of scientific innovation.

Histories of science were originally written by practicing and retired scientists, starting primarily with William Whewell, as a way to communicate the virtues of science to the public. In the early 1930s, after a famous paper given by the Soviet historian Boris Hessen, was focused into looking at the ways in which scientific practices were allied with the needs and motivations of their context. After World War II, extensive resources were put into teaching and researching the discipline, with the hopes that it would help the public better understand both Science and Technology as they came to play an exceedingly prominent role in the world. In the 1960s, especially in the wake of the work done by Thomas Kuhn, the discipline began to serve a very different function, and began to be used as a way to critically examine the scientific enterprise.

Universities with HST programs



  • The University of Sydney offers both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the History and Philosophy of Science, run by the Unit for the History and Philosophy of Science, within the Science Faculty. Undergraduate coursework can be completed as part of either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Undergraduate study can be furthered by completing an additional Honours year. For postgraduate study, the Unit offers both coursework and research based degrees. The two course-work based postgraduate degrees are the Graduate Certificate in Science (HPS) and the Graduate Diploma in Science (HPS). The two research based postgraduate degrees are a Master of Science (MSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).[1]







History of science and technology is a well developed field in India. At least three generations of scholars can be identified. The first generation includes D.D.Kosambi, Dharmpal, Debiprasad Chattopadhyay and Rahman. The second generation mainly consists of Ashis Nandy, Deepak Kumar, Dhruv Raina, S. Irfan Habib, Shiv Visvanathan, Gyan Prakash, Stan Lourdswamy, V.V. Krishna, Itty Abraham, Richard Grove, Kavita Philip, Mira Nanda and Rob Anderson. There is an emergent third generation that includes scholars like Abha Sur and Jahnavi Phalkey.Template:Citation needed

Departments and Programmes

The National Institute of Science, Technolology and Development Studies had a research group active in the 1990s which consolidated social history of science as a field of research in India. Currently there are several institutes and university departments offering HST programmes.




  • Utrecht University, has two co-operating programs: one in History and Philosophy of Science at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and one in Historical and Comparative Studies of the Sciences and the Humanities at the Faculty of Humanities.[10][11]





United Kingdom

United States

Academic study of the history of science as an independent discipline was launched by George Sarton at Harvard with his book Introduction to the History of Science (1927) and the Isis journal (founded in 1912). Sarton exemplified the early 20th century view of the history of science as the history of great men and great ideas. He shared with many of his contemporaries a Whiggish belief in history as a record of the advances and delays in the march of progress. The History of Science was not a recognized subfield of American history in this period, and most of the work was carried out by interested Scientists and Physicians rather than professional Historians.[28] With the work of I. Bernard Cohen at Harvard, the history of Science became an established subdiscipline of history after 1945.[29]

  • Arizona State University's Center for Biology and Society offers several paths for MS or PhD students who are interested in issues surrounding the history and philosophy of the science, particularly biological sciences. The strength of the Center has much to do with the success of its director Jane Maienschein. With a concentration in Biology and Society one can focus on History and Philosophy of Science, Bioscience Ethics, Policy and Law, or Ecology, Economics, and Ethics of the Environment.[30]
  • Brown University has a program in Science and Technology Studies[31] and the History of Mathematics.[32] (This program is in the process of being phased out. There are no longer any full-time faculty, and no new students are being admitted to the program.)
  • California Institute of Technology offers courses in the History and Philosophy of Science to fulfill its core humanities requirements.
  • Case Western Reserve University has an undergraduate interdisciplinary program in the History and Philosophy of Science[33] and a graduate program in the History of Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine (STEM).[34]
  • Cornell University offers a variety of courses within the Science and Technology course. One notable course is called Science and Technology History, taught currently by Professor Peter Dear, which centers upon the development of Science and Technology History from the Newtonian era up to the Einsteinian revolution. This class is one of the longest running classes at Cornell University and is offered by the College of Arts and Sciences and caters to students who want to learn more about the development of modern science.[35]
  • Georgia Institute of Technology has an undergraduate and graduate program in the History of Technology and Society.[36]
  • Harvard has a large undergraduate and graduate program in History of Science, and is one of the largest departments currently in the world.[37]
  • Indiana University offers undergraduate courses and a masters and PhD program in the History and Philosophy of Science.[9]
  • Johns Hopkins University has an undergraduate and graduate program in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology.[38]
  • University of Kings College has a degree program in History of Science and Technology
  • Lehigh University offers an undergraduate level STS concentration (founded in 1972) and a graduate program with emphasis on the History of Industrial America.[39]
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a Science, Technology, and Society program which includes HST.[40]
  • Michigan State University offers an undergraduate major and minor in History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science through its Lyman Briggs College.[41]
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology has a Science, Technology, and Society program which includes the History of Science and Technology[42]
  • Oregon State University offers a Masters and Ph.D. in History of Science through its Department of History.[43]
  • Princeton University has a program in the History of Science.[44]
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has a Science and Technology Studies department
  • Rutgers has a graduate Program in History of Science, Technology, Environment, and Health.[45]
  • Stanford has a History and Philosophy of Science and Technology program.[46]
  • Stevens Institute of Technology has an undergraduate and graduate program in the History of Science.
  • University of California, Berkeley offers a graduate degree in HST through its History program, and maintains a separate sub-department for the field.[47]
  • University of California, Los Angeles has a relatively large group History of Science and Medicine faculty and graduate students within its History department, and also offers an undergraduate minor in the History of Science.[48]
  • University of California Santa Barbara has an interdisciplinary graduate program emphasis in Technology & Society through the Center for Information Technology & Society. The history department is affiliated with the emphasis.[49]
  • University of Florida has a Graduate Program in 'History of Science, Technology, and Medicine' at the University of Florida provides undergraduate and graduate degrees.[50]
  • University of Minnesota has a Ph.D. program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine as well as undergraduate courses in these fields. The Minnesota model "integrates" historians of science, technology, and medicine within the various science departments they study, each holding a joint appointment.[51]
  • University of Oklahoma has an undergraduate minor and a graduate degree program in History of Science.[52]
  • University of Pennsylvania has a program in History and Sociology of Science.[53]
  • University of Pittsburgh's Department of History and Philosophy of Science offers graduate and undergraduate courses.[54]
  • University of Puget Sound has a Science, Technology, and Society program, which includes the history of Science and Technology.[55]
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison has one of the largest programs in History of Science, Medicine and Technology, with particular strength in Medical History, History of Biology, History of Science and Religion, and Environmental History. This program was the first to exist as an independent academic department. It offers M.A. and Ph.D. degrees as well as an undergraduate major.[56]
  • Wesleyan University has a Science in Society program.[57]
  • Yale University has a program in the History of Science and Medicine.[58]

Prominent historians of the field


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Journals and periodicals

See also

Professional societies




Historiography of science

  • H. Floris Cohen, The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry, University of Chicago Press 1994 - Discussion on the origins of modern science has been going on for more than two hundred years. Cohen provides an excellent overview.
  • Ernst Mayr, The Growth of Biological Thought, Belknap Press 1985
  • Michel Serres,(ed.), A History of Scientific Thought, Blackwell Publishers 1995
  • Companion to Science in the Twentieth Century, John Krige (Editor), Dominique Pestre (Editor), Taylor & Francis 2003, 941pp
  • The Cambridge History of Science, Cambridge University Press
    • Volume 4, Eighteenth-Century Science, 2003
    • Volume 5, The Modern Physical and Mathematical Sciences, 2002

History of science as a discipline

  • J. A. Bennett, 'Museums and the Establishment of the History of Science at Oxford and Cambridge', British Journal for the History of Science 30, 1997, 29–46
  • Dietrich von Engelhardt, Historisches Bewußtsein in der Naturwissenschaft : von der Aufklärung bis zum Positivismus, Freiburg [u.a.] : Alber, 1979
  • A.-K. Mayer, 'Setting up a Discipline: Conflicting Agendas of the Cambridge History of Science Committee, 1936–1950.' Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 31, 2000

External links

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  28. Nathan Reingold, "History of Science Today, 1. Uniformity as Hidden Diversity: History of Science in the United States, 1920-1940," British Journal for the History of Science 1986 19(3): 243-262
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