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History of Science

College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History of Science, The University of Oklahoma
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Welcome to the Department of History of Science

The University of Oklahoma’s program in the history of science, technology and medicine is one of the oldest in the United States and has been training undergraduates and graduate students since the 1950s. Today we have active undergraduate majors and minors. We are coordinating a new and exciting major in Health, Medicine and Society, beginning in Fall 2019. Graduate students study for both Masters and Ph.D. degrees, and we also collaborate with the Department of Library and Information Science to offer a dual Masters in History of Science and Library Science.

A unique feature of our program is access to the University of Oklahoma’s History of Science Collections, one of the premier collections of rare books in the history of science and allied fields from 1467 to the present. The Collections are especially strong for the period of the Scientific Revolution. They include first editions of works by all the major figures from Copernicus to Newton and beyond. In the case of Galileo, we possess several items with corrections in Galileo’s own handwriting. The History of Science Collections also includes one of the most complete sets of Charles Darwin’s books, in all their editions and many foreign languages. When the University of Cambridge in England was assembling digital copies of Darwin’s books to make them available online, several of the rarer works were provided by the University of Oklahoma History of Science Collections. In addition, the Collections holds nearly 100,000 secondary sources on the history of science, technology and medicine.  These books are not museum pieces. Both undergraduates and graduate students have direct access to materials held in the History of Science Collections.

Our faculty includes ten people in the Department itself, with additional collaborating scholars in the Honors College, the History Department and elsewhere. We have the largest research group specializing in early modern science in North America, and special strengths in the history of technology (both pre-digital and digital), and the history of medicine. Our geographical scope includes Europe (especially Lutheran Germany and Victorian England), the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, South Asia (especially India and Indonesia) and later Islamicate science (especially Safavid Persia). The Department also regularly hosts international visitors attracted by the History of Science Collections Mellon Fellowship program, and the Edition Open Sources collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. The University of Oklahoma is also the editorial site for the Isis Bibliography, the most important international bibliography of work in science studies and allied fields.

Undergraduate majors take a series of courses on the history of science from the Greeks to the present, and then choose from a variety of topical courses, including the history of Western medicine, women in medicine, science and civilization in Islam, non-Western medicine, science and race, science and empire, and science during the Cold War. Majors also take specially designed research seminars for juniors and seniors. All these courses are open to suitably qualified non-majors. The Department has been a consistent early adopter of new instructional technology and methods. As well as teaching online, many of our face-to-face classes feature discovery learning in small group settings. History of science undergraduate regularly build and edit Wikipedia pages, as part of their course work.

Graduate students are usually admitted to the Master’s program, in the first instance. During their first year of course work they select a topic for their Master’s thesis, and a faculty supervisor. After completing their thesis and required coursework, usually in four or five semesters, they apply for admission to the Doctoral program. Work for the doctorate consists of about three semesters of additional course work, preparing for comprehensive General Examinations, which are designed to support the student’s doctoral project, and planning the doctoral research project itself. After General Exams, students conduct research and write full time to complete their dissertation. The entire program usually takes between five and seven years to complete. Assistantships are available to support students in the graduate program, on a competitive basis, and also provide training in teaching and other skills. Prospective graduate students are encouraged to contact department faculty they may be interested in working with, as well as current graduate students. Their email addresses may be found elsewhere on this site.