Prospective HOS Graduate Students

Please note that although the History of Science Program is located within the History Department, these programs have separate admissions processes. Read more about the graduate program in History.

Graduate Certificate in History of Science

Certificate Description

The Graduate Certificate in History of Science is open to Princeton University graduate students not enrolled in the Program in History of Science. (Students must be currently enrolled to be eligible.) It is aimed at enabling students who are taking seminars in the Program, working closely with our faculty, and writing dissertations on aspects of the history of science, medicine, and technology to receive a formal credential in the field. Many such students prepare a generals field in history of science, technology, or medicine, but that is not a requirement for the certificate. Upon fulfilling all of the requirements, a student will receive a certificate from the Program in History of Science and is entitled to list the credential on his or her curriculum vitae. Starting with degrees earned in the Fall of 2019, the certificate also appears on a student’s official transcript.

The Director of Graduate Studies for History of Science administers the History of Science graduate certificate program.

Students cannot be admitted to the History of Science graduate certificate program since it is not a degree program.

Graduate Program in History of Science

Program Description

The goal of the Graduate Program in History of Science at Princeton is to enhance our students’ enthusiasm for the subject while also training them for the joint professional responsibilities of teaching and research. History of Science at Princeton remains rooted in our tradition of analyzing the technical and conceptual dimensions of scientific knowledge, whether it is physics or psychoanalysis. At the same time, students are encouraged to consider scientific ideas and practices in their widest possible context.

A Program of the History Department

Graduate students in this Program are simultaneously members of the History Department; in fact, their Ph.D. degrees are awarded by History, not History of Science. (All core faculty members in the Program are also members of the History Department; several associated faculty are outside the Department.)

This should therefore be read as a supplement to the Guidelines for Graduate Study in History, which students in the Program should carefully and repeatedly consult. That document provides a more detailed description and interpretation of many of the requirements and expectations outlined in this section, including those pertaining to research papers, financial aid, advising, supervised reading, teaching opportunities, procedures for the doctoral dissertation, and job placement. That information applies generally, though not in every detail, to graduate students in History of Science. In addition, students should consult the basic information on requirements and procedures set forth in the Graduate School Announcement.

Enrollment Period

The period of normal, fellowship-supported enrollment in the Program (as in the History Department at large) is five years, including time spent on research in absentia. Program students can expect financial support throughout those five years at a level at least equal to that offered them upon admission to the Graduate School, so long as they are making satisfactory progress toward the Ph.D. degree.

Students with extensive prior preparation in the field may be able to finish in less than five years, and there is no formal set of requirements that must be met in lock-step fashion. But Program students, like other graduate students in the History Department, do face a heavy set of challenges and expectations, and most will require the full five years of enrollment to satisfy them. Although graduate training in this program is thus a long and demanding process, the normal time between admission and receipt of the Ph.D. is considerably less than the national average for doctoral students in history.

As noted in a separate section below, almost all students gain some teaching experience during the later years of their enrollment, but teaching is not required for financial support during the term of the stipend. If students do not complete their graduate training in five years, they are eligible to received a departmental stipend which when combined with teaching yields a full stipend for the sixth year. Most students in the Program finish in six years or less.

Faculty Advising

At some point during their first two years of study, Program students are urged to develop a working relationship with one or more faculty members in other areas of history or adjacent fields, who will oversee this part of their training. Some students may also wish to take advantage of the resources available at Princeton for training in the philosophy of science, anthropology of science, sociology of science and medicine, science policy, the university’s science and engineering departments, architecture, language and literature departments, or the University’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities (IHUM).

Teaching & Research

To prepare students for future teaching responsibilities we require a general knowledge of the history of science, supported by a more detailed command of a particular area of the subject, and by work in general history. This part of our program is concentrated in the first two years of study and culminates in the General Examination.

Preparation for scholarship in the discipline requires training and exercise in the basic techniques of historical research and writing, with special attention to the problems of dealing with the past records and artifacts of science, technology, and medicine. Research training, begun in seminars during the first two years of formal course work, culminates in the Doctoral Dissertation written during the last three years.

General Examination & Dissertation

The General Examination and the Doctoral Dissertation thus constitute the main formal elements of our graduate program, and the normal course of study is built around them. As specified in the HOS Program of Study and Guidelines, students must also satisfy language and research paper requirements before being permitted to sit for the General Examination. Satisfactory completion of these requirements is no less important than performance in coursework and the General Examination. We attach special importance to the quality of written work, including the required research papers referred to below.

Director of Graduate Studies

Throughout their career in the Program, graduate students should keep in close and frequent touch with the Director of Graduate Studies for History of Science. He or she is responsible for approving programs of study and choices of fields and for interpreting Program, Departmental, and University regulations. He or she also consults with the Department’s Financial Aid Officer and Job Placement Officer when considering any special needs that arise for Program students.

Program Seminar

The Program Seminar serves to foster scholarly community among the faculty, students, and visiting fellows of the Program: we meet weekly to think and talk together, and this is a considerable pleasure (not to mention intellectually invigorating).

A Range of Topics

Topics of the gathering vary. Often we discuss a pre-circulated work in progress, but other conversations are welcome, regarding recent literature, events and trends in the profession, issues of common concern in the Program. The goal is to bridge the divisions among fields of interest and to counteract the centrifugal forces that tend to affect small programs with broad scope. See a list of past seminar topics.