HOS Undergraduate Concentration & Curriculum

Science and technology have had a tremendous impact on the modern world. Conceptions of nature-physical, vital, human-change through time, transforming political, social, and spiritual life. Historians of science study these developments, and try to understand how, in different times and places, human beings have made sense of their world (and tried to mobilize what they learned).

From Copernicus to the atom bomb, from Archimedes to Freud, the history of science investigates dramatic changes in scientific ideas, and unfolds their complex implications.

Concentration & Coursework

How can I study the history of science at Princeton?

Princeton University has a distinguished tradition of excellence in the history of science. Several of the most important scholars in the field in the twentieth century called Princeton home.

Coursework

Currently, courses in the history of science for undergraduates are offered in the history department, and they cover topics ranging from the scientific revolution to the history of biology in the twentieth century. These courses are open to anyone curious about science and society.

Concentration

In addition, the department offers a concentration in the history of science. Concentrators are exempt from most of the ordinary distribution and entry requirements for the history department, since several of their science courses count as departmentals. The number of concentrators varies from year to year, but it is generally around a dozen students, quite a few of whom are also pre-med (the concentration is designed to take advantage of the pre-med requirements, reducing the overall course load for pre-meds who want to study history).

The history of science concentration combines many of the advantages of a small major (close work with faculty, a strong sense of community), with all the virtues of a large department (since students can draw on the resources of the whole history department as well). If you are interested in science and/or engineering, but also enjoy the humanities, history of science could be for you. For more information about the concentration, please contact Professor Katja Guenther.

If I am a history of science concentrator, what kind of job can I get?

Concentrators in the history of science do all kinds of things after graduation: in addition to medical school, law school, and business school, our students have gone on in banking, consulting, teaching, and politics. Because of the ever-increasing importance of science and technology in daily life, a concentration in the history of science can be a real advantage with many potential employers. It demonstrates an interest in, and some proficiency with, technical fields like computing, mathematics, and molecular biology along with concern for the broader social impact of innovation. This sort of training is good for doctors, but also for patent lawyers, designers, product developers, venture capitalists, and indeed anyone who needs to think about the future of science and technology.

History of Science Undergraduate Curriculum

History majors wishing to concentrate in the history of science need not meet the departmental prerequisites or distribution requirements. But they must take ten to twelve courses that satisfy the following requirements:

  • Two courses in science, engineering, or mathematics in addition to those used to fill the University’s science distribution requirement.
  • Four of the following courses:
    • HIS 277/EGR 277 Technology and Society
    • HIS 290 The Scientific Worldview of Antiquity and the Middle Ages
    • HIS 291 The Scientific Revolution and European Order, 1500–1750
    • HIS 292 Science in the Modern World
    • HIS 293 Science in a Global Context: 15th to 20th Century
    • HIS 391 History of Contemporary Science
    • HIS 392 History of Evolution
    • HIS 393 Race, Drugs & Drug Policy in America
    • HIS 394 The Rise of Modern Biomedicine: Global Trends in Health and Healing, 1500–2000
    • HIS 395 History of Medicine and the Body
    • HIS 396 History of Biology
    • HIS 397 Translation in the History of Science
    • HIS 398 Technologies and Their Societies: Historical Perspectives
    • HIS 399 In the Groove: Technology and Music in American History, from Edison to the iPod   
    • HIS 490 Perspectives on the Nature and Development of Science
    • HIS 491 Problems in the Development of the Physical Sciences
    • HIS 492 Problems in the Development of the Life Sciences
    • HIS 493 Science and Religion: Historical Approaches
    • HIS 494 Broken Brains, Shattered Minds: Disease and Experience in the History of Neuroscience
    • HIS 495 The Soviet Science System
    • HIS 491 History of Ecology & Environmentalism
    • HIS 498 History of Pseudoscience

With the permission of the Departmental Representative, one of these courses may be replaced by a cognate course from another department, for example, in philosophy or sociology of science.

  • Four other history courses.
  • The independent work and comprehensive examination requirements are the same as for all other departmental majors.

The duruo plant (Pollia japonica), woodblock printInterested in History of Science?

Contact Professor Katja Guenther.

 

Photo credit: "L0034691" by Wellcome Library, London is licensed under CC BY 4.0. Image has been cropped.