Welcome to the Unit for the History and Philosophy of Science

The unit for HPS offers a balanced program of history, philosophy and social studies of science and medicine, extending from our first year undergraduate unit of study to research leading to the PhD degree.

History and Philosophy of Science is a fascinating discipline situated at the cross-roads of science and arts. It examines past and current developments in all areas of science, technology, and medicine from a range of humanistic perspectives, using socio-historical and philosophical techniques to explore their social, political, cultural, and conceptual ramifications. HPS is an ideal way to critically engage with science and its social and cultural significance.

Our staff's active research records have attracted significant funding from both Australian and international sources. Publishing widely in their fields of expertise and having attained international recognition for their research, they bring the latest scholarship to their teaching and maintain high standards. Our Unit also regularly hosts researchers with international reputations, who contribute to the vibrant intellectual atmosphere.

History

The first lecture series in History and Philosophy of Science was offered to science students in 1945. HPS classes started in 1953, when a Committee in the Faculty of Science invited speakers to participate in a course consisting of ten lectures per year. The first full-time lecturer in HPS, Hugh Lacey, was appointed in 1967. At that time, an optional unit of study was offered to science students. Between 1969 and 1973, Louise Crossley and Alan Chalmers acted as temporary Senior Tutors in charge of the course. In 1974, Ian Langham became the second full-time lecturer in HPS. Following his death in 1984, Alan Chalmers, author of the best-selling textbook What Is This Thing Called Science?, took over his position. Chalmers is famous for his year-long intermediate unit of study.

In 1990 Michael Shortland joined Chalmers as a second lecturer in HPS. Peter Anstey replaced Shortland in 1997, followed by Paul Griffiths, who was appointed as Director in 1998. Chalmers retired in 1999 and Rachel Ankeny became the Unit’s director in 2000 when Griffiths left; followed by Hans Pols and then Ofer Gal. The Unit now offers a junior course in Bioethics, two introductory intermediate units of study, and many more specialised units of study at the senior level. HPS is available as a major in the BSc, BA and the B.Lib.Stud. degree programs. The Unit also offers an Honours course. Around a dozen students are currently pursuing postgraduate study.