Understanding how science, medicine and society interact is key to addressing almost any of the challenges facing the 21st century. Indeed, science and medicine have become integral to our conceptions of race, gender and identity; national security, economic growth and natural risks; sex, death and illness. Science and medicine pervade politics, markets and culture to a larger extent than ever before.
Studying the history of science and medicine provides a critical entry into understanding these relationships between science, medicine and society. Indeed, history is not primarily about the past, but first and foremost about building intellectual tools to make sense of the world we live in today.
History of Science, History of Medicine (HSHM) is an interdisciplinary program of study within the History Department that leads toward an understanding of the development and interactions of science, medicine and society. It explores a great variety of topics, such race and medicine in America, Chinese science, women and medicine, genetics and biotechnology public health and epidemics, science and the state, medical technologies and pharmaceutical drugs.
The program offers students considering a career in medicine, public health, or other fields of health care a way of combining the requirements of their preprofessional training with a broad liberal education. It also provides excellent preparation for many other careers in which a contextualized understanding of science and medicine is essential, including areas of law, industry, journalism, museum work, public policy, and government, as well as graduate study in the history of science and/or medicine.
For additional information about the major, including curricular requirements, the teaching faculty, and courses offered, see the Yale College Programs of Study.
The Major's Director of Undergraduate Studies
The principal faculty contact for prospective HSHM majors is the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). Students interested in obtaining information about the HSHM major or who wish to register for it should contact the DUS listed in the Undergraduate Contacts section at the bottom of this page.
Individual Faculty Advisors
At the beginning of the academic year, juniors and seniors majoring in HSHM will be assigned to individual faculty advisors. They should seek the advice of their advisor in choosing their courses and constructing their course of study. Students are to have their course cards signed by these advisors at the beginning of each term. Undergraduate advisors for juniors and seniors are ordinarily drawn from the HSHM's core faculty and affiliates.
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. Distinction in the Major is awarded only to students who complete a yearlong senior project.
For both the one-term and year long 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.