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History of Science, Medicine and Technology

Administrative Unit:History of Science
College/School: College of Letters & Science
Admitting Plans:M.A., Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.A., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

Faculty: Professors Hsia (chair), Broman, Keller, Lederer, Mitman, Nyhart, Schatzberg; Associate Professor Houck; Assistant Professors Gómez, Jackson, Nelson; Senior Lecturer Rider


The department offers the master of arts and the doctor of philosophy in history of science, medicine, and technology. Graduate instruction leads to research and teaching careers in the history of science, medical history, history of technology, intellectual and cultural history, science in general education programs, science writing, and museum work.

The department offers one of the largest and most diverse such programs in the United States. It addresses the development of the sciences, medicine, and technology in their social and intellectual contexts, including attention to institutions, philosophy, religion, literature, and visual and material culture. It also invites students to develop cognate interests in areas as diverse as science studies, environmental history, gender and women's studies, history of pharmacy, and philosophy of science. Faculty provide broad coverage, with expertise that spans Europe, the United States, and non-Western areas from the Middle Ages to the present, and ranges across the physical, biological, and social sciences to medicine and technology.

An M.A. degree for students entering with an advanced health professional degree is designed for students with doctoral training in one of the health professions who wish to pursue a master’s degree with a concentration in medical history.

Joint Ph.D. in History and History of Science

Students who wish to obtain a joint Ph.D. in history and history of science, medicine, and technology are initially admitted to one of the departments, and should indicate interest in the joint Ph.D. program at that time. After completion of a master’s degree in history or history of science, medicine, and technology (or an approved alternative), the student applies for admission to the other department and, at the same time, to a standing committee of the two departments for admission to the joint program. Having been admitted to the other department and to the joint program, the student then applies to the Graduate School for approval of the joint Ph.D. (See the Graduate School's academic policy regarding joint degrees for more information and deadlines.) The student’s application to the standing committee should take the same form as required by the Graduate School and should be prepared in close consultation with department faculty/staff.

Students in the joint Ph.D. program are assigned a home department and follow the regulations of that department with regard to seminar requirements, language requirements, financial aid, and regulations for satisfactory progress. Since the joint Ph.D. meets the doctoral minor requirement of the Graduate School, no formal minor is required of students receiving a joint Ph.D. However, students who wish to have a minor field recorded on the transcript may complete a regular Option A or Option B minor, or the internal minor of the department.

The joint Ph.D. student’s work is supervised by a committee consisting of three faculty members (two from the home department). The preliminary examinations test the student’s competence in both history and history of science, medicine, and technology, balancing the material and fields between the two departments (e.g. two in each, or three in one and two in the other).  The number of prelim fields must equal the number required of students majoring exclusively in history or in history of science, medicine, and technology, plus one. Preparation of the Ph.D. dissertation is guided by the student's supervising committee. Satisfactory completion and defense of the dissertation constitute the final requirements for the joint Ph.D. degree.

Doctoral Minor

Ph.D. candidates in other departments can earn a minor in history of science by taking 9 credits in history of science at the 300 level or above, including Hist Sci 720. Courses must be completed with grades of B or better. No more than 3 credits taken in independent study courses (Hist Sci 990 or 999) may be applied to the doctoral minor. Credit received for the History of Science Colloquium (Hist Sci 950) does not count toward the minor. Students are strongly encouraged to include a seminar among their minor courses. Graduate students who are interested in a history of science minor should see the department chair or the director of graduate studies before embarking on their minor program.


For admission to graduate study, a high-quality undergraduate record is more important than the particular program pursued. Graduate students have begun work in the History of Science with a wide variety of undergraduate majors ranging across the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, although some prior exposure to college-level study of history is desirable.

For more information: Department of History of Science, 210 Bradley Memorial, 1225 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1393; 608-262-1406; mail@histsci.wisc.edu; www.histsci.wisc.edu