History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM) Courses

Fall 2024

Information Revolutions
Subject associations
HIS 298

Surveying key moments from the 19th century to the present, this course tracks how networked communications, numerical calculation, symbolic reasoning, and information processing converged to create contemporary information technologies. The course introduces students to the major kinds of historical inquiry-philosophical, engineering, labor, material, social, gender, legal, and cultural-needed for studying information technologies in the last 150 years. Topics include Silicon Valley, software engineering, PCs, hacking, artificial intelligence, information, cryptography, outsourcing, privacy, information warfare, social networks, surveillance

Matthew L. Jones
Formations of Knowledge: Historical Approaches to Science, Technology, and Medicine
Subject associations
HIS 390

In our contemporary world, science, technology, and medicine enjoy tremendous cultural and intellectual authority. This class introduces a set of analytical tools historians use to understand the origins and consequences of these ways of knowing, across space and time. We will discuss a variety of ideas and methods that describe the social, cultural, and intellectual conditions of possibility for creating knowledge about the natural world. In addition, the class materials invite students to reflect on the cultural and intellectual constraints that shape how societies determine which knowledge is worth pursuing and why.

Katja Guenther
The Science of Heaven and Hell
Subject associations
HIS 496

In premodern Europe, almost everyone believed in the literal existence of an afterlife. This class asks how thinking about Heaven, Hell, and the apocalypse shaped attitudes towards the physical world from late antiquity to the 18th century. We trace how poets and natural philosophers dealt with these realms, and ask how ideas about nature and the body in turn shaped religious views. Topics include the challenge of squaring scientific texts with Scripture; the spiritual implications of medicine, astrology, alchemy, and magic; the physics of angels; demonic possession and mental health; and whether Heaven and Hell existed in physical space.

Anthony T. Grafton
Jennifer M. Rampling