History of Science and Medicine

207 Hall of Graduate Studies, 203.432.1365
M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.

John Harley Warner [F]
Deborah Coen [Sp]

Director of Graduate Studies
Paola Bertucci

Faculty Paola Bertucci (History), Deborah Coen (History), Joanna Radin (History of Medicine), Chitra Ramalingam (History), William Rankin (History), Naomi Rogers (History of Medicine; Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies), John Harley Warner (History of Medicine; History)

Affiliated Faculty Rene Almeling (Sociology), Toby Appel (Librarian for Medical History), Melissa Grafe (Librarian for Medical History), Dimitri Gutas (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations), Ann Hanson (Classics), Jessica Helfand (Yale College), Marcia Inhorn (Anthropology), Kathryn James (Curator, Early Modern Books & Manuscripts, Beinecke Library), Amy Kapczynski (Law), Jennifer Klein (History), Joanne Meyerowitz (History), Amy Meyers (Center for British Art), Alan Mikhail (History), Ayesha Ramachandran (Comparative Literature), Kevin Repp (Curator, Modern European Books & Manuscripts, Beinecke Library), Carolyn Roberts (History), Paul Sabin (History), Jason Schwartz (Public Health), Gordon Shepherd (Neuroscience), Rebecca Tannenbaum (History), R. John Williams (English; Film & Media Studies)

The Graduate Program in the History of Science and Medicine is a semi-autonomous graduate track within the Department of History. The program’s students are awarded degrees in History, with a concentration in the History of Science and Medicine.

Fields of Study

All subjects and periods in the history of science and history of medicine, especially the modern era. Special fields represented include American and European science and medicine; disease, therapeutics, psychiatry, drug abuse, and public health; science and national security; science and law, science and religion, life sciences, human genetics, eugenics, biotechnology, gender, race, and science/medicine; bioethics and medical research; environmental sciences; human and social sciences; physical and earth sciences.

Special Admissions Requirements

Applicants should have a strong undergraduate background in history and in a science relevant to the direction of their graduate interests. These requirements will be applied with flexibility, and outstanding performance in any field pertinent to the program will be taken into consideration.

Special Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

All students must show proficiency in two languages in addition to English relevant to the student’s research interests and approved by the director of graduate studies (DGS); in recent years these have included Bulgarian, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Spanish, and Swedish. Students may fulfill the requirement by passing an approved language course for credit, by passing a language test administered by the program faculty, by DGS approval of demonstrated command of a native language other than English, or by graduation from an approved foreign university where teaching was conducted in a language other than English.

Students will ordinarily take twelve term courses during the first two years. All students will normally take the two-term core seminar sequence HSHM 701/HSHM 702 or equivalents, HSHM 710, four additional graduate seminars in history of science or medicine, and at least one graduate course in a field of history outside of science or medicine. The remaining courses can be taken in history of medicine or science, history, science, or any other field of demonstrated special relevance to the student’s scholarly objectives. Two of the twelve courses must be graduate research seminars in the History of Science and Medicine.

During the first two years of study, students must achieve Honors in at least two courses in the first year and Honors in at least four courses by the end of the second year, with a High Pass average overall. At the end of each term, the DGS will ask faculty members whether they have serious concerns about the academic progress of any first- or second-year students in the Ph.D. program. Faculty members who have such concerns will provide written feedback to the DGS at the DGS’s request. The DGS will use discretion in ensuring that feedback is provided in a clear and effective manner to any students about whom there are concerns.

At the end of the academic year, the HSHM faculty will hold a special meeting to review each first- and second-year student in the program. The purpose of the meeting is to assess students’ academic progress. In order for second years to proceed to the third year, they must demonstrate through written work, classroom performance, and participation in departmental activities that they have the ability to: (a) speak and write clearly; (b) conduct independent research at a high level; and (c) develop coherent scholarly arguments. A faculty vote will be taken at the conclusion of the review meeting to decide whether each second-year student may continue in the program. If a majority of faculty present and voting determine that a student may not continue, the student will be informed in writing and withdrawn from the program. The review meeting must be a full faculty meeting, but faculty members with no knowledge of the students under review may abstain from the vote, and their abstentions will not count in the total. Those members of the faculty who have worked with or know the students being evaluated are required to attend. In the event that any necessary faculty members absolutely cannot be present, they may send their views in writing to the DGS, who will read them at the meeting.

Students who enter having previously completed graduate work may obtain up to three course credits toward the completion of the total course requirement, the amount being contingent on the extent and nature of the previous work and its fit with their intended course of study at Yale.

All students are expected, prior to entering on their dissertation work, to develop a broad general knowledge of the discipline. This knowledge may be acquired through a combination of course work taken at Yale or elsewhere, regular participation in the program colloquia and workshops, and preparation for the qualifying oral examination.

Students will normally spend the summer following their second year preparing for the oral qualifying examination, which will be taken in the third year, preferably during the first half.

The qualifying examination will cover four areas of chosen concentration: (1 & 2) two fields in the history of science and/or history of medicine; (3) a field in an area of history outside of medicine and/or science; and (4) a field of special interest, the content and boundaries to be established with the adviser for the field. The student may elect to do a second field in history outside of history of science or medicine; or a field in one of the sciences; or a field in a subject such as bioethics, health policy, public health, medical anthropology, medical sociology, science and law, science and national security, science and religion, science and culture, biotechnology, gender, science and medicine; race, science and medicine, or cultural studies.

During their first term in the program, all students will be advised by the DGS. During the second term and thereafter, each student will be advised by a faculty member of the student’s choosing. The adviser will provide guidance in selecting courses and preparing for the qualifying examination. The adviser may also offer help with the development of ideas for the dissertation, but students are free to choose someone else as the dissertation supervisor when the time comes to do so. Students are encouraged to discuss their interests and program of study with other members of the faculty.

Students are encouraged to begin thinking about their dissertation topics during the second year. They are required to prepare a dissertation prospectus as soon as possible following the qualifying examination and to defend the prospectus orally before being admitted to full candidacy for the doctoral degree. Ordinarily the prospectus defense is held in the second term of the third year, with advancement to candidacy before the start of the fourth year.

Teaching is an important part of the professional preparation of graduate students in History of Science and Medicine. Students will teach, usually in the third and fourth years of study. They may, however, teach in the second term of the second year, deferring the completion of their required course work to the first term of the third year. Students are also encouraged to participate in the programs to develop teaching skills offered by the Graduate School. All HSHM students are expected to teach for four terms; two terms of teaching are required in order to receive the Ph.D.

In the fourth or fifth year, and preferably no later than the fall term of the fifth year, students are required to submit a chapter of the dissertation (not necessarily the first chapter) to the dissertation committee. This chapter will then be discussed with the student by members of the committee, preferably in a colloquium, to give the student additional advice and counsel on the progress of the dissertation. This conference is designed to be an extension of the conversation begun in the prospectus defense and is not intended as another defense; its aim is to give students early feedback on the research, argument, and style of the first writing accomplished on the dissertation.

M.D./Ph.D. and J.D./Ph.D. Joint-Degree Programs

Students may pursue a doctorate in History of Science and Medicine jointly with a degree in Medicine or Law. Standard graduate financial support is provided for the doctoral phase of work toward such a joint degree. Candidates for the joint degree in Law must apply for admission to both the Law School and the Graduate School. Information about the joint-degree program with Medicine can be obtained from the website of the Yale School of Medicine (http://medicine.yale.edu/mdphd) and from the website of the Section of the History of Medicine (http://medicine.yale.edu/histmed).

Master’s Degrees

M.Phil. and M.A. (en route to the Ph.D.) See Degree Requirements under Policies and Regulations.

Terminal Master’s Degree Program For the terminal master’s degree students must pass seven term courses, four of which must be in HSHM. Course work will normally include the three “Problems” graduate seminars and one additional graduate seminar in HSHM. The remaining courses are to be chosen in consultation with the DGS or a faculty adviser. Honors grades are required in two courses, with a High Pass average overall. Financial aid is not available for this M.A. program.

More information is available on the program’s website, http://hshm.yale.edu.


HSHM 656a / HIST 949a, Photography and the SciencesChitra Ramalingam

Does photography belong in the history of art, or does its status as an "automatic" or "scientific" recording technique and its many uses in the sciences distinguish its history from that of earlier visual media? How does photography look when we approach it from the cultural history of science? How might its role in the sciences have shaped photographic aesthetics in the arts? This course examines the making of photography's discursive identity as an experimental and evidentiary medium in the sciences, from its announcement to the public in 1839 to the digital innovations of the present day. We take a historical and archival perspective on uses for (and debates over) photography in different fields of the natural and human sciences, grounded in visits to photographic collections at Yale.
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 701a / HIST 930a, Problems in the History of Medicine and Public HealthJohn Warner

An examination of the variety of approaches to the social and cultural history of medicine and public health. Readings are drawn from recent literature in the field, sampling writings on health care, illness experiences, and medical cultures in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States from antiquity through the twentieth century. Topics include the role of gender, class, ethnicity, race, religion, and region in the experience of health care and sickness; the intersection of lay and professional understandings of the body; and the role of the marketplace in shaping professional identities and patient expectations.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 702b / HIST 931b, Problems in the History of ScienceDeborah Coen

Close study of recent secondary literature in the history of the physical and life sciences. An inclusive overview of the emergence and diversity of scientific ways of knowing, major scientific theories and methods, and the role of science in politics, capitalism, war, and everyday life. Discussions focus on historians' different analytic and interpretive approaches.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 711a / HIST 927a, Death, Degeneration, and DecayJoanna Radin

This reading seminar addresses questions of finitude, breakdown, loss, and the limits of life as they have been articulated from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Specific topics encompass biomedical interest in cell death, ecological attention to ecosystem collapse, and racial theories of degeneration. Because theories of cybernetics and computing are a fundamental dimension of postwar life and biomedical science, we also consider how ideas about life and death have been addressed in the engineering and maintenance of digital infrastructures.
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 714a, Science, Environment, and EmpireDeborah Coen

A reading seminar exploring recent historiographical trends at the intersection of the history of science, imperial history, and environmental history.
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 719a / HIST 917a, Natural History in HistoryPaola Bertucci

The changing meaning of natural history, from antiquity to the nineteenth century. Topics include technologies and epistemologies of representation, the commodification of natural specimens and bioprospecting, politics of collecting and displaying, colonial science and indigenous knowledge, the emergence of ethnography and anthropology. Students work on primary sources in Yale collections.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 732b / HIST 742b, Readings in the Environmental HumanitiesPaul Sabin

An interdisciplinary seminar to explore the emerging field of the environmental humanities. This reading course examines how humanities disciplines can best contribute to a broad scholarly and societal conversation about humanity and the fate of the planet. We consider how environmental problems and questions might reshape humanities teaching and research, and what humanities scholars can learn through greater collaboration with social and natural scientists. This seminar draws on faculty expertise from a range of humanities disciplines and engages students in defining the field, including designing possible future courses in the environmental humanities.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 736b / HIST 943b / WGSS 730b, Health Politics, Body PoliticsNaomi Rogers

A reading seminar on struggles to control, pathologize, and normalize human bodies, with a particular focus on science, medicine, and the state, both in North America and in a broader global health context. Topics include disease, race, and politics; repression and regulation of birth control; the politics of adoption; domestic and global population control; feminist health movements; and the pathologizing and identity politics of disabled people.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 750b / HIST 939b, Approaches to the History of TechnologyPaola Bertucci

An introduction to the history of technology, with a focus on classic and recent works in the field. Students discuss theoretical problems and case studies from the Middle Ages to the present. Topics include technological determinism, technology transfer, the Industrial Revolution, the social construction of technology, thing theory, the human-machine relationship.
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 755a, Anthropological Perspectives on Science and TechnologyLisa Messeri

The course focuses on ethnographic work on scientific and technical topics, ranging from laboratory studies to everyday technologies. Selected texts include canonical books as well as newer work from early scholars and the most recent work of established scholars. Divided into four units, this seminar explores the theme of “boundaries,” a perennial topic in anthropology of science that deals with the possibility and limits of demarcation. Each week, different kinds of boundaries are examined, and students learn to see their social constructedness as well as the power they carry. We begin by exploring where science is and isn’t, followed by the boundary between ourselves and technology, which is a specific example of the third boundary we examine: the one artificially drawn between nature and culture. We end with readings on geopolitics and the technologies of delineating nation from nation as well as thinking about postnational scientific states. Class discussion guides each session. One or two students each week are responsible for precirculating a book review on the week’s reading, and a third student begins class by reacting to both the texts and the review. The final assignment is a research paper or a review essay.
W 9:25am-11:15am

HSHM 916b / HIST 920b, Advanced Research in History of Science & MedicineDeborah Coen

W 3:30pm-5:20pm