History of Science and Medicine

Humanities Quadrangle, 203.432.1365
M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.

Bill Rankin

Director of Graduate Studies
Joanna Radin

Faculty Sakena Abedin, Paola Bertucci, Deborah Coen, Ivano Dal Prete, Megann Licskai , Nana Quarshie, Joanna Radin, Marco Ramos, William Rankin, Carolyn Roberts, Naomi Rogers, John Harley Warner

Affiliated faculty Rene Almeling (Sociology), Alexi Baker (Collections Manager, HSI), Melissa Grafe (Librarian for Medical History), Greta LaFleur (American Studies), Alka Menon (Sociology), Lisa Messeri (Anthropology), John Durham Peters (English; Film and Media Studies), Jason Schwartz (Public Health), Kalindi Vora (Women's, Gender, and Sexuality 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 Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree


Students will ordinarily take fourteen courses by the end of the third year. In their first two years, all students will normally take the three core Problems seminars: Problems in the History of Medicine and Public Health (HSHM 701 or HSHM 703), Problems in the History of Science (HSHM 702), and Problems in Science Studies (HSHM 710). These courses are committed to exploring histories of medicine and science alongside the cultural, political, and social forces that shape them. Issues of race, gender, sexuality, disability, class, and religion are integrated into discussions of medical and scientific knowledge production and praxis in Western and non-Western contexts. In addition, students are expected to take the HSHM Program seminar (HSHM 790, a half-credit course that may be repeated for credit) during their third through sixth semesters. These courses meet every other week and teach skills related to research and professional development relevant to careers in and beyond academia.

Students are also required to take four graduate seminars in the history of science or medicine. Two of the four must be graduate research seminars. The remaining five courses can be taken in history of science or medicine, history, science, or any other field of demonstrated special relevance to the student’s scholarly objectives.

Graduate school grading at Yale follows a qualitative rubric of Honors, High Pass, or Pass. 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 director of graduate studies (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.

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


All students must show proficiency in two languages in addition to English relevant to the student’s research interests and approved by the DGS. Over the years, our graduate students have demonstrated proficiency in a wide range of languages, including American Sign Language, Bulgarian, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. Students may fulfill the requirement in a variety of ways, including demonstrated command of a native language other than English, graduation from an approved foreign university where teaching is conducted in a language other than English, passing an approved language course for credit, or passing a language test administered by the faculty or by one of Yale’s language departments. Language tests are administered by their respective departments (such as German, Italian, French, East Asian Languages and Literatures). Students should consult the DGS for additional details and options for uncommon languages.

Yale offers classes in a variety of languages, from introductory to advanced levels, as well as special summer courses for targeted reading proficiency. There are also opportunities to study languages outside of Yale’s curriculum, including funding for summer language study, and Directed Independent Language Study (DILS) for individuals who wish to study a language not offered by Yale. For more information on these programs and foreign language tutoring at Yale, please visit the Center for Language Study’s website at http://cls.yale.edu.

Second-Year Review

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-year students 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.

​Qualifying Examination

Prior to beginning work on the dissertation, all students are expected to develop a broad general knowledge of the discipline. This knowledge will be acquired through a combination of course work, regular participation in HSHM colloquia and workshops, and dedicated preparation for the qualifying oral examination.

The qualifying examination has two main goals. First, it is a preparatory step toward the dissertation. Students will master the analytical vocabulary of the discipline and engage critically with key historiographic and theoretical questions. This will prepare them to select a research topic of scholarly significance and to articulate its import effectively. Second, the qualifying examination will prepare students for teaching. Students will learn to communicate a set of historical themes and narratives confidently and fluently. Accordingly, as part of their exam preparation, students may be asked to draft a syllabus for an undergraduate course based on each exam field.

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 normally consist of four fields, each of which will be examined by a different faculty member: two fields in the history of science and/or history of medicine; one field in an area of history outside of medicine and/or science; and one field of special interest, the content and boundaries of which will be established in consultation with the student’s adviser.

Possibilities for the field of special interest include a second field in history outside of history of science or medicine, a field with a scientific or medical focus (such as bioethics, health policy, public health, medical anthropology, or medical sociology), or a field at the intersection of science, medicine, and other subjects (such as law, national security, religion, culture, biotechnology, gender, race, literature, the environment, and so on).

In preparation for the qualifying examination, the program’s faculty work closely with students to facilitate the successful passage of the exam. A student who does fail the qualifying examination will be permitted to retake it. A student who fails a second time will be asked to withdraw from the program.


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 adviser when the time comes to do so. Students are encouraged to discuss their interests and program of study with other members of the faculty.

Dissertation Prospectus

Students are encouraged to begin thinking about their dissertation topics during the second year. This is an opportune time, since they will be expected to submit 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. The prospectus colloquium is typically held in the second term of the third year, with advancement to candidacy before the start of the fourth year.

For more information, please see the program’s Guide to Prospectus and Prospectus Colloquium at https://hshm.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/prospectus_guide.pdf.

Committee Constitution Requirement

Each Ph.D. student must have a dissertation committee and a dissertation adviser, satisfactory to the student’s department and in accordance with Graduate School requirements, in order to register for the fourth year of study. Students without an approved committee and dissertation adviser will normally be withdrawn from their program.


Teaching is an important part of the professional preparation of graduate students in History of Science and Medicine. Students are encouraged to participate in programs to develop their teaching skills, including the Certificate for College Teaching Preparation, which is a comprehensive training program designed to enhance proficiency in classroom instruction.

Typically, during the third and fourth years of study, students will serve as teaching fellows, which usually means that they will lead small-group discussion sections for undergraduate courses and grade their students’ exams and papers. On occasion, however, students may work as teaching fellows in the second term of the second year, particularly if they have received course credit for previous graduate studies, or if they choose to defer the completion of their required course work for the first term of the third year. Students usually work as teaching fellows for courses in the History of Science and Medicine, but they may also have the opportunity to be teaching fellows in History or other departments.

At least two terms of teaching are required for doctoral students to graduate from the Program in the History of Science and Medicine; four terms are required for students on Yale-supported fellowships, although students may elect to substitute one or two of these terms with research assistantships at the Yale Center for British Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, or other sites across campus. For more information, please contact the Office of Financial Aid.

​Chapter Conference and Dissertation Completion

In the fourth or fifth year, and preferably no later than the fall term of the fifth year, students are required to submit one chapter of the dissertation (not necessarily the first chapter) to the dissertation committee. The committee will then meet as a group with the student to discuss the chapter and the student’s progress on the dissertation more generally. This conference is meant to be an extension of the conversation begun in the prospectus defense, with the aim of providing feedback on the student’s research, argument, and style at this early stage of the dissertation writing process. No less than one month before students plan to submit their dissertations, a relatively polished full draft of the dissertation should be discussed with the student by the dissertation committee in a dissertation defense of one to two hours. This will give the students additional advice and counsel on completing the dissertation or on turning it into a book, as appropriate. Students are required to submit the draft to their committee in sufficient time for the committee to be able to read it. This defense is designed to give students advice on the overall arguments and the final shape of the dissertation or book and to leave time for adjustments coming out of the discussion.

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 at least two Problems graduate seminars and two additional graduate seminars 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 525a or b / HIST 525a or b, Field StudiesLauren Benton and Staff

This course does not count toward the coursework requirements for the Ph.D. or M.A.  ½ Course cr

HSHM 691a and HSHM 692b / ANTH 963a and ANTH 964b / HIST 963a and HIST 964b / HSAR 841a and HSAR 842b, Topics in the Environmental HumanitiesPaul Sabin and Sunil Amrith

This is the required workshop for the Graduate Certificate in Environmental Humanities. The workshop meets six times per term to explore concepts, methods, and pedagogy in the environmental humanities, and to share student and faculty research. Each student pursuing the Graduate Certificate in Environmental Humanities must complete both a fall term and a spring term of the workshop, but the two terms of student participation need not be consecutive. The fall term each year emphasizes key concepts and major intellectual currents. The spring term each year emphasizes pedagogy, methods, and public practice. Specific topics vary each year. Students who have previously enrolled in the course may audit the course in a subsequent year. This course does not count toward the coursework requirement in history. Open only to students pursuing the Graduate Certificate in Environmental Humanities.  ½ Course cr per term
T 5:30pm-7:20pm

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 Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the United States from antiquity through the twenty-first century. Topics include the role of gender, class, ethnicity, race, religion, and region in the experience of sickness and healing; the intersection of lay and professional understandings of the body; and the role of the marketplace in shaping cultural authority, professional identities, and patient expectations.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

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

Surveys current methodologies through key theoretical and critical works. Students encounter major twentieth-century methodological moments that have left lasting imprints on the field: positivism and anti-positivism, the sociology of knowledge, actor-network theory, and historical epistemology, as well as newer approaches focusing on space, infrastructure, translation, and exchange. We also consider central conceptual problems for the field, such as the demarcation of science from pseudoscience; the definition of modernity and the narrative of the Scientific Revolution; vernacular science, the colonial archive, and non-textual sources.
Th 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 3:30pm-5:20pm

HSHM 749a or b / HIST 925a or b, Visual and Material Cultures of SciencePaola Bertucci

The seminar discusses recent works that address the visual and material cultures of science. Visits to Yale collections, with a particular emphasis on the History of Science and Technology Division of the Peabody Museum. Students may take the course as a reading or research seminar.

HSHM 753b / AMST 838b / HIST 749b, Research in Environmental HistoryPaul Sabin

Students conduct advanced research in primary sources and write original essays over the course of the term. Readings and library activities inform students’ research projects. Interested graduate students should contact the instructor with proposed research topics.
Th 9:25am-11:15am

HSHM 761b / AFAM 752b / HIST 937b, Medicine and EmpireCarolyn Roberts

This graduate research course is limited to a small number of graduate students who are currently involved in research projects that touch on any issues related to health, medicine, and the body in the context of slavery, colonialism, or neocolonialism. The course includes visits to diverse archives on campus, discussions of archival best practices, and digital organizational tools. The course provides graduate students with a balance of support and independence as they carry out their research. Graduate students in any discipline are warmly welcomed to participate in a compassion-based research community that prioritizes values of deep listening, presence, and care.
Th 3:30pm-5:20pm

HSHM 765b / HIST 950b, Workshop for Article PublicationBill Rankin

Writing a seminar paper is something quite different from revising it, polishing it, incorporating feedback, and ultimately publishing it. These are crucial skills, especially given the benefits of having a stand-alone article in press before the dissertation is complete. This writing seminar is open to all students in History, HSHM, and allied fields who have previously written an article-length research paper. Working together and individually, the goal of the term is to revise the paper in preparation for submission to an academic journal (of the student’s choice). We address common writing dilemmas—including structure, argument, introductions, scale, evidence, and intervention—as well as strategies for choosing a journal, writing within and beyond a subfield, and (eventually) responding to peer review. Similar to the Mellon writing-in-residence program, we prioritize collegial support and constructive exchange. Open to all topics, time periods, and methodological approaches.
W 9:25am-11:15am

HSHM 775b / AFAM 929b, The Afterlives of Slavery, Health, and MedicineCarolyn Roberts

This graduate reading course is limited to a small number of graduate and professional school students who are interested in studying historical and contemporary texts that explore the history of slavery and its afterlives from the perspective of health and medicine. Graduate and professional school students co-create the course based on their interests. All students serve as co-teachers and co-learners in a supportive, compassion-based learning community that prioritizes values of deep listening, presence, and care.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 782b / AMST 696b / ENGL 906b / ER&M 696b / RLST 630b / WGSS 696b, Michel Foucault I: The Works, The Interlocutors, The CriticsGreta LaFleur

This graduate-level course presents students with the opportunity to develop a thorough, extensive, and deep (though still not exhaustive!) understanding of the oeuvre of Michel Foucault, and his impact on late-twentieth-century criticism and intellectual history in the United States. Non-francophone and/or U.S. American scholars, as Lynne Huffer has argued, have engaged Foucault’s work unevenly and frequently in a piecemeal way, due to a combination of the overemphasis on The History of Sexuality, Vol 1 (to the exclusion of most of his other major works), and the lack of availability of English translations of most of his writings until the early twenty-first century. This course seeks to correct that trend and to re-introduce Foucault’s works to a generation of graduate students who, on the whole, do not have extensive experience with his oeuvre. In this course, we read almost all of Foucault’s published writings that have been translated into English (which is almost all of them, at this point). We read all of the monographs, and all of the Collège de France lectures, in chronological order. This lightens the reading load; we read a book per week, but the lectures are shorter and generally less dense than the monographs. [The benefit of a single author course is that the more time one spends reading Foucault’s work, the easier reading his work becomes.] We read as many of the essays he published in popular and more widely-circulated media as we can. The goal of the course is to give students both breadth and depth in their understanding of Foucault and his works, and to be able to situate his thinking in relation to the intellectual, social, and political histories of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Alongside Foucault himself, we read Foucault’s mentors, interlocutors, and inheritors (Heidegger, Marx, Blanchot, Canguilhem, Derrida, Barthes, Althusser, Bersani, Hartman, Angela Davis, etc); his critics (Mbembe, Weheliye, Butler, Said, etc.), and scholarship that situates his thought alongside contemporary social movements, including student, Black liberation, prison abolitionist, and anti-psychiatry movements. Instructor permission required.
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

HSHM 790a or b, HSHM Program SeminarDeborah Coen

The HSHM Program Seminar helps students navigate the requirements of the Ph.D. program in HSHM, including but not limited to the prospectus, teaching, conference presentations, the "hidden curriculum," research and publication strategies, career planning, and other topics. Along with discussion of skills specific to HSHM, the course provides opportunities for students to practice these skills in a workshop format. Some sessions will include guest speakers on topics such as non-academic careers and the publishing world. The seminar is a requirement for students in their second and third years of the Ph.D. in HSHM and is an elective for students in other years.  ½ Course cr

HSHM 920a or b, Independent ReadingStaff

By arrangement with faculty.

HSHM 930a or b, Independent ResearchStaff

By arrangement with faculty.

HSHM 997a or b / HIST 997a or b, Pedagogy SeminarStaff

Faculty members instruct their Teaching Fellows on the pedagogical methods for teaching specific subject matter.  0 Course cr