Science, technology, and medicine 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.
Programs of Study & 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.
There are three avenues for the study of history of science at Princeton:
Currently, History of Science (HOS) courses 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.
Minor in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM)
The HSTM minor welcomes all majors to the study of the history of science. In the HSTM minor, students will learn from the array of methodological approaches developed by historians of science, technology, and medicine, and track the evolution of modern science from antiquity to the present, in many of the world’s cultures. Learn more about the HSTM Minor or contact the Undergraduate Program Director for History of Science.
For History majors: The HOS track
The department offers a track in the History of Science for History majors. Those pursuing the HOS track have slightly different requirements from other students in the History major. The number of those pursuing the track varies from year to year, but it is generally around a dozen students, quite a few of whom are also pre-med (the track is designed to take advantage of the pre-med requirements, reducing the overall course load for pre-meds who want to study history).
The HOS track 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 track, please contact the Undergraduate Program Director for History of Science.
What kind of job can I get with the HSTM minor or HOS track?
Students 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 focus of study 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.
Interested in History of Science?