Mission Statement

The Program in the History of Science and Technology at Smith aims to cultivate in students a critical, historical understanding of science, technology and their interactions with each other. Students minoring in the program study science and technology in their social, cultural and intellectual milieus. They do so in an interdisciplinary setting, with faculty and approaches drawn from all of the major divisions of the college.


The study of the history of science and technology offers many rewards. Careful analysis and criticism of texts and objects is useful for all students. Students learn how science and technology have been major forces in the development of human societies and cultures. In addition, they learn how the theoretical and experimental practices of the sciences have been influenced by societies and cultures. Among other functions, exposure to the history of science and technology allows one to see that these endeavors have looked and operated differently in times past, that this history influences their development, and that they are linked to each other and the larger culture in different ways throughout history.


By studying the history of science and technology, students can come to understand how these endeavors change and progress even though scientists change their minds dramatically, compete quite vigorously and defend ideas in the face of overwhelming counterevidence. Further, as science and technology extend their reach ever further into our society, students gain a perspective on the intellectual, social and cultural currents that have shaped science and technology as we now know them.


Students typically begin their study in the foundation course, HSC 112. The course is designed to embody the interdisciplinary character of the discipline as it is practiced internationally, nationally and at Smith. Cultural, historical and technical approaches are explored to examine, in fully developed cultural contexts, the ways in which particular sciences have developed over time. Subsequent courses allow students the opportunity to explore the history of particular sciences, specific historical periods and themes, and the use and construction of historically significant technological instruments. Students are encouraged to explore the minor in courses at the other 5 Colleges, during their period of study abroad and in the Picker Program at the Smithsonian Institution.


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