History of Science


The History of Science graduate program provides professional training in the interdisciplinary subject of history of science, technology, and medicine. It bridges the humanities, social sciences, and the natural sciences by studying the social and cultural contexts within which science is practiced and has developed.  

Its successful pursuit requires an understanding of the development of the sciences and technology within particular historical settings, as well as the ability to synthesize knowledge from seemingly disparate fields of study. In addition to engaging in the teaching and research of a challenging academic discipline, historians of science may also work to help reform the teaching of science by placing science in a broader context and illustrating and explaining the processes of science.  

History of Science graduates are teachers at high school, colleges and universities; they are archivists, museum curators, and editors; they are analysts of science and technology policy, and historians for government agencies, for research facilities, and for business corporations.

What is History of Science?

History of Science is a field of inquiry that has evolved considerably since its oldest journal, Isis, was first published in 1912. It examines scientific ideas and their relationship to society. Some are more interested in how one idea led to another; some are more interested in individual lives and institutions; some are interested in technological applications; some are interested in the social and political dimensions of science.
All of these are legitimate. OSU is one of a handful of institutions in the United States offering an intensive program in the History of Science. Although we do not offer a separate degree in History, we also encourage students to read widely and take courses in historical subjects unrelated to history of science.

What are your particular strengths at OSU? 

We have faculty with a range of interests and you should spend some time with our online faculty profiles. However, OSU should be a particular attraction if you are interested in life sciences, environmental sciences, public health and medicine, science and politics, or the philosophy of science.The extensive Ava Helen and Linus Pauling collection, as well as the Nuclear History collection, both at OSU’s Valley Library, makesOSU an ideal place to do original research in the history of biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and nuclear issues in the second half of the twentieth century.

The School of History, Philosophy, and Religion offers M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in History of Science. The School also participates in the graduate program in Interdisciplinary studies (M.A.I.S.). History and History of Science may be used as a major or minor in the MAIS degree program or as a direct minor in other graduate programs.

Distinguished Faculty

Our HoS faculty are known internationally for their excellence in both teaching and research. Some recent examples:

Jacob Darwin Hamblin was been selected as the winner of the 2014 Paul Birdsall Prize for his latest book Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism (Oxford Univ. Press, 2013).  He is also the Director of the Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative.
Horning Professor in the Humanities Anita Guerrini was chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)  ‘History and Philosophy of Science section steering group’ from 2014-2015.  Her most recent book The Courtiers’ Anatomists: Animals and Humans in Louis XIV’s Paris came out in 2015 (University of Chicago Press).
Michael Osborne is President-Elect, Division of History of Science and Technology, International Union of the History and Philosphy of Science and Technology and the Co-recipient of Berendel Foundation Cantemir Prize for Intercultural Humanism. His most recent book The Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France  (University of Chicago Press, 2014), won the 2014 John Lyman Book Award.
Horning Professor in the Humanities, David Luft, is a past president of the Austrian Studies Association and the recipient of a variety of teaching awards and fellowships, including two Fulbright Fellowships to Vienna in 2004-2005 and 2014-2015. He is currently completing a book entitled The Austrian Tradition in German Intellectual History.

Visiting Lectures

Thanks to strong support from the School and the Horning Endwoment for the Humanities, students have a steady stream of acclaimed and engaging guest speakers to gain perspective from. Recent visitors have included: Robert Fox, Rob Iliffe, Roderick Nash, Eric Higgs, Pamela Long, and Ken Albala.

Northwest Lifestyle

Corvallis, a University town of 55,000, lies at the center of a nature-culture axis. Corvallis offers spectacular scenery, superb outdoor recreation, and a host of locally grown dining, craft breweries, and artistic opportunities. With over 60 miles of biking and hiking trails throughout town and into surrounding countryside, it’s never hard to get away from it all.

In case that is not enough, Corvallis is also only about an hour from the Pacific ocean to the west, the high Cascade mountains to the east, the city of Portland to the north and the city of Eugene to the south, so you will not run out of things to do...ever. But, we not only talk the talk, we also walk the walk with one of the most innovative, environmentally conscious, and inclusive campuses in the nation.     

Top five ‘Best Cities for Entrepreneurs’ (Entrepreneur, 2013)
#1 Green campus in Oregon (#11 nationwide)  (Sierra Club, 2013)
“Gold” for bicycle commuting (League of American Bicyclists, 2011)
A five-star campus (LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index, 2011)
#1 Green Power community in the nation (EPA, 2009)
A top-20 ‘most livable’ town (Outside magazine, 2008)
The fifth smartest city in the U.S. (Forbes magazine, 2008)

  • The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required (completed within five years prior to the application) 
  • A writing sample (no more than 25 pages)
  • Three letters of recommendation that specifically evaluate academic abilities and professional potential 

The writing sample and recommendations should be sent directly to:

Oregon State University
School of History, Philosophy, and Religion
History of Science Graduate Program
305B Milam Hall,
Corvallis, OR 97331-5104  

The deadline for applications to the History of Science Graduate Program is January 1 for admission in the fall quarter of the following academic year.  Applicants to the MA/MS/PhD program in History of Science are strongly encouraged to contact the Director of Graduate Studies prior to the deadline as you may qualify for recruitment funding.  An appointment as graduate assistant includes a tuition waiver and a stipend.  Applicants who wish to apply for graduate research assistantships or graduate teaching assistantships should indicate this on an application. Assistantships ordinarily are awarded around April 1 for the following academic year.

Still have questions?

Read our FAQ's!