NEWS and in the MEDIA


Recently, HPS was promoted from a Unit to School. This change supports and recognises the achievements of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney from 1945 to now and into the future.
To celebrate this, we have invited three speakers who will address the past, the present, and the future of HPS. We will start with recognising the outstanding success of the seminal text What is this Thing Called Science? by Alan Chalmers. Now well into its fourth decade, his book has become a classic the world over translated in nineteen languages.
Professor Rachel Ankeny – University of Adelaide past Director of HPS at USyd addresses the current state of HPS
Dr Daniela Helbig – University of Sydney looks to the future of HPS .


Royal Society of New South Wales History and Philosophy of Science Medal for 2017.

Peter Godfrey Smith and his partner Jane Sheldon

Peter Godfrey-Smith and his partner Jane Sheldon at the award ceremony.

At the Annual dinner of the Royal Society of New South Wales, our colleague Peter Godfrey-Smith was presented with the Royal Society of New South Wales History and Philosophy of Science Medal for 2017. He received the medal from the Governor of New South Wales, The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC, who is the patron of the Society.

In the citation motivating the award, it was stated that “Professor Godfrey-Smith has made seminal contributions to the philosophy of biology, especially evolutionary theory, and to the philosophy of mind, particularly in relation to animal cognition and the evolutionary origins of subjective experience and ‘consciousness’.”

Several of his colleagues in the School of HPS, as well as the Dean of Science Trevor Hambley, were present at the occasion.





ARC Laureate Fellowship

A philosophy of medicine for the 21st century

This project aims to develop a new theory of health and disease to accommodate developments in contemporary biology such as the ‘developmental origins of health and disease’, the role of the microbiome in physiology, and the fact that our bodies are sites of evolutionary conflict between multiple genomes, particularly in early life. Present science does not fit with common-sense ideas about the identity and the goals of living systems and the project expects to generate a close collaboration between philosophers and biomedical scientists so that new ideas about health and disease can be fed back into proof-of-principle projects for innovative new approaches to the study of health and disease. The project will conduct methodologically innovative research in the philosophy of medicine, working in close collaboration with biomedical scientists to confront the transformational discoveries about the nature of living systems that have been made in the first years of the current century and to actively shape new forms of enquiry into health that reflect those discoveries. It will make the discipline of philosophy an active participant in the creation of integrative biomedical research.

Professor Warwick Anderson

Warwick Anderson

Warwick Anderson’s very brilliant career was almost an accident.He was meant to be a doctor.In fact he was a GP in the suburbs of Melbourne when life veered in an unexpected direction one day in the late 1980s, when he enrolled in a single subject at the University of Melbourne to fill an empty afternoon.That subject, on the history and philosophy of science, changed everything. He loved it.He kept enrolling in more subjects while continuing to work as a medico.Then one day someone suggested he do a PhD, which took him to the University of Pennsylvania where his thesis, supervised by Charles E. Rosenberg, focused on the impact of colonisation on public health in the Philippines. From there he was off to Harvard for three years, then back to Melbourne and eventually to Sydney, with stints in California and Wisconsin along the way.

“I discovered my forte,” he says, laughing. “I was a fairly good GP but by chance I found something I was actually very good at and enjoyed doing. There is a chance that I could have spent my entire life without ever knowing that. So whatever mishaps have come my way since, I know I’ve been extraordinarily lucky because most people never discover their forte.”

Of course, it’s not over yet. Professor Anderson will head back to Harvard next year as the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser chair in Australian studies. The prestigious position will give him the rare opportunity to help change perceptions of scientific and medical history.
“One of the things I see myself as contributing is a view of the history of science from the southern hemisphere, and it looks different from here than if you are in London, Paris or Cambridge, Massachusetts,” Professor Anderson says. “I’m interested in the connections of science and empire, which has been transformed over the years into critical studies of how science has become globalised in the 19th and 20th centuries. I’m looking at how science travels and how it is adapted, appropriated and transformed in different settings.”

The year-long chair also will allow Professor Anderson to share the knowledge accumulated across the past five years as Australia’s first historian to collect an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship. “The Harvard chair seemed to be a nice segue from that. The whole point of the laureate fellowship is to generate exciting, ground breaking work. We have done that in work about race and human difference: the history of racial biology, of racial science from the perspective of the global south. In some ways this is an opportunity to bring the results of that research to Harvard.”

The author of many multiaward- winning books, Professor Anderson has another book or two to complete before setting off for Boston, including one on his present work looking at a rare genetic disease that affects the inhabitants of Groote Eylandt but that has antecedents in the Azores and China. Certainly, medicine remains a passion. And while he gave up practising in 1999, he still maintains his registration.
“I sometimes think I could take retirement and work as a GP again,” he says with a laugh.
But back to that accidental career. Professor Anderson is philosophical. “I was at Harvard as an assistant professor between 1992 and 1995. I thought going into history from medicine was career suicide.I used to joke that after my PhD every time I got a new job my salary went down. “But it was a lesson in following one’s inclinations and talents because it did take some courage to move out of my comfortable life as a GP in the suburbs of Melbourne to do a PhD in history and not expecting to get a career out of it.” ‘I’m looking at how science travels, how it is adapted, appropriated and transformed’