Program Information

Description of the History of Science Program

The Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine has existed at the University of Chicago since 1976. It sponsors talks and workshops on topics in and around the history of science, and coordinates the History Department's Ph.D. program in the history of science. It is also closely connected with the University's Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, a Ph.D. program in the history and philosophy of science.

The areas of research of Fishbein Center faculty members range widely. One can see this in the titles and subtitles of their books:

  • Evolutionary Theory in the Nineteeth and Twentieth Centuries
  • Classical Probability in the Enlightenment
  • Pirate Radio
  • The French Psychiatric Professian in the 19th Century
  • Hermeticism and the Renaissance
  • How Habits of Mind Govern Scientific Belief
  • The Meaning of Evolution
  • Representing the Sexual in Medicine and Culture
  • Victorian Anthropology
  • The Nature of the Book
  • Statistics on the Table
  • Objectivity in Science
  • Historical Epistemology of Chinese Medicine
  • Politics and Psyche in France, 1750-1850
  • How the Sciences Make Knowledge
  • The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico
  • Modern History of Memory

The areas of research of Fishbein students range, if possible, even more widely. However, all involved with the center see an important role for the history of science in helping us to understand scientific theories and activities.

The graduate program in the history of science leads to a Ph.D. in history. Students thus take courses not only in the history of science and medicine, but also in other areas of history. They often (and, indeed, are encouraged to) take courses in other departments: in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The program is best suited to students who are interested both in the technical development of the sciences and in the broader social, cultural, or intellectual history of science, and who find rewarding the challenge of connecting the two.

Fishbein Workshops

The Fishbein Center supports two workshops in the history of science. The Workshop in the History of the Human Sciences discusses the work of guests or its own members (graduate students and faculty) in biweekly sessions. This is an opportunity for graduate students and faculty working in the history of anthropology, psychology, sociology, human biology, and medicine to explore issues of significance. Dissertation chapters, seminar papers, and drafts of articles are the usual fare. Quite a few books have been first vetted in the workshop. The Center sponsors a second biweekly meeting , the Workshop in the History and Philosopy of Science. The topics considered at these sessions range quite widely, from history of ancient astronomy to philosophy of evolutionary biology.

The Seminar on Important Things

In addition to workshops, the Center organizes the Seminar on Imporant Things. This luncheon seminar considers the latest books in the history of science and offers members opportunity for informal discussion of issues. Debate is softened by free sandwiches and other refreshments.

A calendar listing these and related events is available on the CHSS website. Announcements concerning these events are also posted to the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) e-mail list (to be included on this list, write the Director of the Fishbein Center).