History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health

Director of undergraduate studies: William Rankin, HGS 206, william.rankin@yale.edu; hshm.yale.edu


Professors Naomi Rogers, William Summers, John Warner

Associate Professor Paola Bertucci

Assistant Professors Henry Cowles, Joanna Radin, William Rankin

Lecturers Ivano Dal Prete, Jenna Healey, Chitra Ramalingam

Affiliated Faculty Rene Almeling (Sociology), Toby Appel (Yale University Library), Melissa Grafe (Yale University Library), Dimitri Gutas (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations), Ann Hanson (Classics), Jessica Helfand (School of Art), Marcia Inhorn (Anthropology), Kathryn James (Yale University Library), Amy Kapczynski (Law School), Gundula Kreuzer (Music), Amy Meyers (Yale Center for British Art), Alan Mikhail (History), Ayesha Ramachandran (Comparative Literature), Paul Sabin (History), Jason Schwartz (School of Medicine), Gordon Shepherd (School of Medicine), Frank Snowden (History), Rebecca Tannenbaum (History), R. John Williams (English

History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health is an interdisciplinary program that focuses on how different forms of knowledge and technology have been created in various times, places, and cultures, and how they have shaped the modern world. The program explores questions such as whether science is universal, or whether each culture has its own approach to trustworthy knowledge; the relationship between medical expertise, social structure, and everyday life; the nature of technology and its relationship to political, economic, and military power; reasons why even the best public health campaigns have unintended consequences.

Course topics include the Scientific Revolution, medicine and media in modern America, health activism and public health, global health and epidemics, biotechnology, predictions of planetary catastrophe, scientific collections and material culture, and the historical development of the physical, environmental, biological, and human sciences.

A major in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health offers excellent preparation for a wide range of careers. Premedical students and others interested in health-related fields can combine preprofessional training with a broad humanistic education. The major also provides a solid foundation for any career at the intersection of the sciences, technology, and public life, including law, business, journalism, museum work, public policy, and government.

Requirements of the major The major in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health requires twelve term courses, including the two-term senior requirement. Students select a pathway of seven courses that guides them through an area of specialization. The seven pathway courses must include two courses in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health; one seminar numbered 100 or above in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health or in History; one science course; and three electives chosen from relevant courses in any department.

The five standard pathways in the major are Medicine and Public Health; Global Health; Science, Technology, and Society (formerly Science, Technology, and Power); Gender, Reproduction, and the Body (formerly Gender and Sexuality); and Media, Visual Culture, and Material Knowledge (formerly Arts and Media). Students may also design customized pathways in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies. No later than the beginning of the junior year, students in the major must select a standard pathway or indicate that they wish to design their own.

Beyond the seven pathway courses, students must complete three additional electives in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health. One of the electives must be a seminar, and one must be chosen from a pathway other than the one selected for the major. All courses for the major are chosen in collaboration with the student's adviser.

Senior requirement By the end of reading period in the spring term of the junior year, students choose whether they will work toward a yearlong or a one-term senior project. Yearlong senior projects are completed in HSHM 490, 491; one-term projects are completed in HSHM 492. Students who choose a one-term project must take an additional seminar in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health during the final term of the senior year. Only students who complete a yearlong senior project are eligible for Distinction in the Major.

For both the one-term and yearlong senior projects, students select a project adviser, propose a tentative topic and title, and submit a proposal to the senior project director. The final product of the senior requirement may be a written essay or an alternative project such as a film, exhibition, catalog, atlas, or historical data reconstruction. In the case of an alternative project, the student must identify a second reader in addition to the adviser before the project is approved by the senior project director. Either the adviser or the second reader must be a member of the faculty in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health. A written component to the senior project must illustrate sources and the intellectual significance of the project. For more details about requirements and deadlines, majors should consult the HSHM Senior Project Handbook; copies are available from the senior project director and on the program's Web site.

Credit/D/Fail courses Courses taken Credit/D/Fail may not be counted toward the requirements of the major.


Prerequisites None

Number of courses 12 term courses (incl senior req)

Distribution of courses 7 courses in pathway, incl 2 HSHM courses, 1 sem in HSHM or Hist numbered 100 or above, 1 science course, and 3 electives; 3 addtl HSHM electives, incl 1 sem and 1 course outside major pathway

Senior requirement Yearlong project (HSHM 490, 491), or one-term project (HSHM 492) and 1 addtl HSHM sem


* HSHM 007a / HUMS 076a, Epidemics in Global Perspective William Summers

Interaction of epidemic diseases and society. The response of government, medicine, and the public to the threat or actual presence of widespread contagious diseases. The notion of major epidemics as one of the key contingencies of history, critically examined through contemporary medical, political, and literary accounts. The changing responses of societies and governments to epidemics as well as the reasons for those responses. Enrollment limited to freshmen. Preregistration required; see under Freshman Seminar Program.  HU, SO

HSHM 202a / AMST 247a / FILM 244a / HIST 147a / HLTH 170a, Media and Medicine in Modern America John Warner

Relationships between medicine, health, and the media in the United States from 1870 to the present. The changing role of the media in shaping conceptions of the body, creating new diseases, influencing health and health policy, crafting the image of the medical profession, informing expectations of medicine and constructions of citizenship, and the medicalization of American life.  HU

HSHM 203b / HIST 154b, Making Medicine Modern Jenna Healey

Survey of Western medical theory, practice, and institutions from antiquity to the present. Topics include the evolution of theories of disease, competing theories of medical epistemology, the political development of the medical profession, the shifting cultural meaning of the hospital, and the role of medical technology in visualizing the body.   HU

HSHM 204a / AMST 163a / EVST 120a / HIST 120a, American Environmental History Paul Sabin

Ways in which people have shaped and been shaped by the changing environments of North America from precolonial times to the present. Migration of species and trade in commodities; the impact of technology, agriculture, and industry; the development of resources in the American West and overseas; the rise of modern conservation and environmental movements; the role of planning and impact of public policies.  WR, HU

HSHM 211b / EVST 211b / G&G 211b / HIST 416b, Global Catastrophe since 1750 William Rankin

A history of the geological, atmospheric, and environmental sciences, with a focus on predictions of global catastrophe. Topics range from headline catastrophes such as global warming, ozone depletion, and nuclear winter to historical debates about the age of the Earth, the nature of fossils, and the management of natural resources. Tensions between science and religion; the role of science in government; environmental economics; the politics of prediction, modeling, and incomplete evidence.  HU

HSHM 214a / HIST 402a, Extraterrestrials in History Ivano Dal Prete

The notion of extraterrestrials and "radical others" in history and culture from antiquity to the present. Topics include other worlds and their inhabitants in ancient Greece; medieval debates on the plurality of worlds; angels, freaks, native Americans, and other "aliens" of the Renaissance; comet dwellers in puritan New England; Mars as a socialist utopia in the early twentieth century; and visitors from space in American popular culture.  HU

HSHM 215b / HIST 140b, Public Health in America, 1793 to the Present Naomi Rogers

A survey of public health in America from the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 to AIDS and breast cancer activism at the end of the past century. Focusing on medicine and the state, topics include quarantines, failures and successes of medical and social welfare, the experiences of healers and patients, and organized medicine and its critics.  HU

HSHM 226a / HIST 236a, The Scientific Revolution Paola Bertucci

The changing relationship between the natural world and the arts from Leonardo to Newton. Topics include Renaissance anatomy and astronomy, alchemy, and natural history.  HU

HSHM 227b / HIST 485b, Science in the Ancient and Premodern World Ivano Dal Prete

The engagement of premodern civilizations with the study of nature, from antiquity to c. 1500. Middle Eastern and Greco-Roman scientific traditions, cross-cultural dissemination with India and China, natural philosophy in the Islamic and Christian Middle Ages. Emphasis on the visual and material culture of science. No background in history or science is required.  HU

HSHM 242a / HIST 193a, Molecules, Life, and Disease: Twentieth Century William Summers

The emergence of the molecular vision of life and disease in the twentieth century. Topics include the role of technology and research practices, intellectual and political migrations, science policy and philanthropic foundations, constructions of risks and patenting of life, big science and biotechnology, politics of memory, and popular representation of science. Relationships to broad intellectual, social, cultural, and political changes.  HU

HSHM 278b / CLCV 134b / HIST 208b, Ancient Greek Medicine and Healing Jessica Lamont

An introduction to Greek medicine and healing practices from the fifth century BCE to the second century CE, with attention to central concepts, methods, and theories. The relation of scientific theories to clinical practice, magic, temple medicine, and Greek philosophy are considered.  HU

* HSHM 405a / HIST 463Ja, Historical Perspectives on Gender and Technology Jenna Healey

Exploration of the historical connection between gender and technology; how gender has influenced the design, production, and consumption of technology, as well as the ways in which medical technologies have altered ideas about sex and gender. Topics include domestic design, cyborg feminism, reproductive technologies, sex reassignment surgery, and women in computing.  HU

* HSHM 406b / HIST 150Jb, Healthcare for the Urban Poor in Twentieth Century America Sakena Abedin

Exploration of the institutions, movements, and policies that have attempted to provide healthcare for the urban poor in twentieth-century America, with emphasis on the ideas (about health, cities, neighborhoods, poverty, race, gender, difference, etc) that shaped them. Topics include hospitals, health centers, public health programs, the medical civil rights movement, the women’s health movement, and national healthcare policies such as Medicare and Medicaid.    SO

* HSHM 407b / HIST 176J / HSAR 399b / HUMS 220b, Collecting Nature and Art in the Preindustrial World Paola Bertucci

A history of museums before the emergence of the modern museum. Focus on: cabinets of curiosities and Wunderkammern, anatomical theaters and apothecaries' shops, alchemical workshops and theaters of machines, collections of monsters, rarities, and exotic specimens.     WR, HU

* HSHM 415b / HIST 179Jb, Historical Perspectives on Science and Religion Ivano Dal Prete

The engagement between science and religion from a historical standpoint and a multicultural perspective. The Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Christian traditions; the roots of modern creationism; salvation expectations and the rise of modern science and technology. General knowledge of western and world history is expected.  HU

* HSHM 420b / HIST 413Jb / PSYC 436b, History of Addiction Henry Cowles

A survey of the understanding and treatment of addiction in the modern period. Psychology and psychiatry; alcoholism, abstinence, and prohibition; gambling and other behavioral addictions; recent work on habit formation; and addiction narratives in literature and film. Readings include primary texts from a range of scientific and medical fields as well as from court cases, political debates, and social and religious movements.   WR, HU

* HSHM 422a / HIST 467Ja, Cartography, Territory, and Identity William Rankin

Exploration of how maps shape assumptions about territory, land, sovereignty, and identity. The relationship between scientific cartography and conquest, the geography of statecraft, religious cartographies, encounters between Western and non-Western cultures, and reactions to cartographic objectivity. Students make their own maps. No previous experience in cartography or graphic design required.  WR, HU

* HSHM 423a / HIST 417Ja, Biomedical Futures Since 1945 Joanna Radin

Ideas about biomedicine's promises and perils as they have been realized differently across place and time. Visions of the future of biomedicine that have shaped public policy, medical practice, and therapeutic innovation. Speculation about what medicine would come to look like in time. Ideas from literature, film, advertisements, policy documents, and medical texts around the world since World War II.  WR, HU

* HSHM 434a / SPAN 309a, Science and Religion in Spanish Narrative, 1875–1915 Leslie Harkema

The literary response to debates surrounding scientific advances and religious belief in Spanish novels and stories of the modernist era. Authors include Benito Pérez Galdós, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Miguel de Unamuno, and Pío Baroja. Open to students who have placed into L5 courses or who have successfully completed an L4 course in Spanish. Counts toward the Spanish major.  L5, HU

* HSHM 448a / HIST 177Ja / WGSS 448a, American Medicine and the Cold War Naomi Rogers

The social, cultural, and political history of American medicine from 1945 to 1960. The defeat of national health insurance; racism in health care; patient activism; the role of gender in defining medical professionalism and family health; the rise of atomic medicine; McCarthyism in medicine; and the polio vaccine trials and the making of science journalism.  WR, HU

* HSHM 453b / HUMS 336b, Culture and Human Evolution Gary Tomlinson

Examination of the origins of human modernity in the light of evolutionary and archaeological evidence. Understanding, through a merger of evolutionary reasoning with humanistic theory, the impact of human culture on natural selection across the last 250,000 years.  HU, SC

* HSHM 456a / HIST 465Ja, History of Human Experimentation Since 1800 Jenna Healey

This course traces the history of human experimentation from early debates about the nature of experimental medicine in the nineteenth century to the emergence of institutionalized bioethics in the late twentieth century. Topics include the role of race in human subject research, the development of IRBs (institutional review boards), and the globalization of clinical trials.  WR, HU

* HSHM 457b / HIST 178Jb / HUMS 457b / PSYC 455b, Other Minds Henry Cowles and Laurie Santos

A historical and scientific perspective on what this course will refer to as "other minds." Students have the opportunity to study key scientific papers and interact with international experts on such topics as the cognitive capacities that allow humans to think of animal species as deserving of compassion and respect; why certain human groups are considered "less than" human; and what makes the human mind special. Prerequisites: one course in psychology and one course in historical perspectives, or with permission of the instructor.  SO

* HSHM 468a / HIST 260J, Sex, Life, and Generation Ivano Dal Prete

Theories and practices of life, sex, and generation in Western civilization. Politics and policies of conception and birth; social control of abortion and infanticide in premodern societies; theories of life and gender; the changing status of the embryo; the lure of artificial life.  HU

* HSHM 471a or b, Directed Reading Staff

Readings directed by members of the faculty on topics in the history of science, medicine, or public health not covered by regular course offerings. Subjects depend on the interests of students and faculty. Weekly conferences; required papers.

* HSHM 490a or b and HSHM 491a or b, Yearlong Senior Project Joanna Radin

Preparation of a yearlong senior project under the supervision of a member of the faculty. There will be a mandatory meeting at the beginning of the term for students who have chosen the yearlong senior project; students will be notified of the time and location by e-mail before classes begin. Majors planning to begin their projects who do not receive this notice should contact the senior project director. Students expecting to graduate in May enroll in HSHM 490 during the fall term and complete their projects in HSHM 491 in the spring term. December graduates enroll in HSHM 490 in the spring term and complete their projects in HSHM 491 during the following fall term. Majors planning to begin their projects in the spring term should notify the senior project director by the last day of classes in the fall term. Students must meet progress requirements by specific deadlines throughout the first term to receive a temporary grade of SAT for HSHM 490, which will be changed to the grade received by the project upon the project's completion. Failure to meet any requirement may result in the student's being asked to withdraw from HSHM 490. For details about project requirements and deadlines, consult the HSHM Senior Project Handbook. Students enrolled in HSHM 491 must submit a completed project to 211 HGS no later than 5 p.m. on April 3, 2017, in the spring term, or no later than 5 p.m. on November 30, 2016, in the fall term. Projects submitted after 5 p.m. on the due date without an excuse from the student's residential college dean will be subject to grade penalties. Credit for HSHM 490 only on completion of HSHM 491.

* HSHM 492a or b, One-Term Senior Project Joanna Radin

Preparation of a one-term senior project under the supervision of an HSHM faculty member, or of an affiliated faculty member with approval of the director of undergraduate studies. There will be a mandatory meeting at the beginning of the term for students who have chosen the one-term senior project; students will be notified of the time and location by e-mail before classes begin. Majors planning to begin their projects who do not receive this notice should contact the senior project director. Students expecting to graduate in May enroll in HSHM 492 during the fall term. December graduates enroll in HSHM 492 in the preceding spring term. Students planning to begin their project in the spring should notify the senior essay director by the last day of classes in the fall term. Majors must submit a completed Statement of Intention form signed by the faculty member who has agreed to supervise the project to the HSHM administrator in 207 HGS no later than September 18, 2016 (HSHM 492a), or January 19, 2017 (HSHM 492b). Blank statement forms are available in 207 HGS and in the HSHM Senior Project Handbook. Students enrolled in HSHM 492 must submit a completed senior project to 211 HGS no later than 5 p.m. on December 5, 2016, in the fall term, or no later than 5 p.m. on May 2, 2017, in the spring term. Projects submitted after 5 p.m. on the due date without an excuse from the student's residential college dean will be subject to grade penalties.