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Graduate Program Requirements

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.

Fields of Study

All subjects and periods in the history of medicine and history of science are represented.

Special fields of study include:

  • American science and medicine
  • Asian science and medicine
  • Arabic science and medicine
  • Disease
  • Therapeutics
  • Psychiatry
  • Drug abuse
  • Public health
  • Physics
  • Science and national security
  • Science and law
  • Science and religion
  • Life sciences
  • Human genetics
  • Eugenics,
  • Molecular biology,
  • Biotechnology,
  • Microbiology,
  • Intellectual property,
  • Gender, science & medicine
  • Race, science & medicine,
  • Bioethics
  • Medical research.

Special Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

Course Work

Students will ordinarily take twelve courses during the first two years. All students will normally take the three core “Problems” seminars: Problems in History of Science, Problems in History of Medicine, and Problems in Science Studies. The “Problems” 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.

While in course work, students will also take four 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. If a student does not meet this standard by the end of the first or second year, the relevant members of the department will consult and promptly advise the student whether the student will be allowed to register for the fall of the following academic year.

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.

Language Requirement

All students must show proficiency in two languages relevant to the student's research interests and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies of the Program. Students may fulfill the requirement either by passing an approved language course for credit or by passing a language test administered by the program faculty.


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 of it.

The Qualifying Examination will normally consist of four fields, each of which will be examined by a separate faculty member:

1. & 2. Two fields in the history of science and/or history of medicine.
3. One field in an area of history outside of medicine and/or science.
4. One field of special interest, the content and boundaries of which will be established in consultation with the student's advisor.

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.

First Year

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 his or her 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.

Second Year

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. Read more about writing a Prospectus. 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.

Each Ph.D. student must have a dissertation committee, 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 will normally be withdrawn from their program.

Third Year

Teaching is an important part of the professional preparation of graduate students in History of Medicine and Science. Students will teach, usually in the third and fourth years of study. They may, however, teach in the second semester of the second year, deferring the completion of their required course work to the first semester of the third year. Students are also encouraged to participate in the programs to develop teaching skills offered by the Graduate School.

Fourth or Fifth Year

In the fourth or fifth year, and preferably no later than the fall term for 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 colloquium and is not intended as a 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 Medicine and Science 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 web site of the Yale Medical Scientist Training Program Office in the School of Medicine and from the web site of the History of Medicine.