History and Philosophy of Science


The major in History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) investigates the nature of science, how science has developed, and how it has come to occupy such an central position in today's society. HPS is an exciting area of study in which you will be stimulated to think critically and creatively about developments within science and their impact on society. It places science in its historical and social contexts and examines how science differs from other forms of knowledge.

In this major you will study the ethical issues associated with recent developments in science such as stem cell research, cloning, and animal experimentation. You will also look at the major issues in the history and philosophy of science by examining the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, and you also have the opportunity to take specific studies in topics such as the history and philosophy of the biomedical sciences and the history and philosophy of the physical sciences.

For more information on the program structure and content, view the Science Undergraduate Handbook.

Major outline

To prepare for a major in History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) it is recommended that you take 6 credit points of junior units in HPS and 12 credit points of elective units of study from history, philosophy, gender studies, physics, psychology, or other related areas of study in arts or science in consultation with the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science. It is a good idea to plan ahead and have an idea of which senior units you need to complete, so that you can plan your junior and intermediate prerequisite units accordingly.

In second year, you will take intermediate HPS units which are the prerequisites for your senior HPS units.

To successfully complete your HPS major you must take at least 24 credit points of senior HPS units of study.

The Birth of Modern Science
What is this Thing Called Science?
History and Philosophy of the Biomedical Sciences
The Scientific Revolution
Science and Ethics
History and Philosophy of Psychology and Psychiatry

Graduate opportunities

HPS is a valuable field of study for any career requiring a broad and critical appreciation of science and its position in society. It is particularly relevant for careers in science administration, science policy, science education, science communication, science journalism, exhibition design and museum work. Many careers in government and business require a broad and critical appreciation of science and its place in the modern world. History and philosophy of science provides an ideal training for positions of this kind.

Students majoring in one of the sciences or medicine benefit from taking courses in HPS because it provides a deeper understanding of the nature of scientific research and its social and ethical implications. It allows students to take a step back and reflect on the nature of science and its place in society.

Further study for major

Eligible students wishing to study HPS at an advanced level have the opportunity to take an honours year, involving advanced coursework and an original thesis project based on research conducted under the direction of a supervisor. Undertaking honours is a great way to explore your potential for a career in research.

If you do very well in your honours year, you may wish to further explore your research interests by taking a higher research degree such as an MSc or PhD. The Unit for the History and Philosophy of Science offers the following areas of research: history and philosophy of biology, medicine and/or physical science; bioethics; public understanding of science and medicine; sociology of science; and many more. The HPS research programs are designed so that you develop your knowledge of the field but also develop skills such as how to structure research projects and manage your time in a way which enables you to perform to the best of your abilities and to develop expertise in a research area of particular interest.

For a more structured approach to further study, you might also consider doing a postgraduate coursework program like the Graduate Certificate in Science (HPS) or the Graduate Diploma in Science (HPS).

Related subject areas


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