The Department of History and Sociology of Science dates from 1962, when the University created a new program of graduate studies, “designed to further the systematic investigation of the history, the customs and social institutions, and the methodologies of science and technology.” First called “History and Philosophy of Science,” it combined faculty from the disciplines of history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, English, and American civilization. Loren Eiseley (1907-1977), long-time University of Pennsylvania Museum anthropologist, essayist, and poet, and Provost from 1959-1961, was one of the first faculty members in the new program. In 1970, it became the Department of History and Sociology of Science, with its own core faculty in addition to associated faculty from many departments. Alumni from four decades of the HSS doctoral program are found at research universities, research institutes, museums, and in the business world. In 2010, the Department celebrated forty years of scholarship and teaching with a reunion for its graduate alumni, of which more than a third attended.
History and Sociology of Science continues the tradition of using the tools of the humanities and social sciences to study science, technology, and medicine. Its scholars examine and elucidate the relations between the technical practice of scientists, engineers, medical researchers, and clinicians, and the material, social, political and cultural context in which those practices occur. In addition to its outstanding graduate program, the department offers two interdisciplinary undergraduate majors: Science, Technology and Society, which examines the relation of humanities, science and technology, and the production of knowledge, and Health and Societies, which studies medicine and health in social context.
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