While the Unit for HPS offers a broad range of expertise and encourages students to pursue research in any aspect of the history, philosophy, and sociology of science to which they are drawn, the teaching at our Unit is concentrated in three major areas: Medicine and Society, Early Modern Science and Bioethics.
Medicine and society
Where did modern medicine originate? How do new medical technologies impact on our lives? How does Western medicine relate to alternative, non-Western approaches to healing? In our research concentration on medicine and society, we trace the history of modern medicine, discussing topics such as the role of dissection in medical research and teaching, the evolution of the modern hospital, the influence of the germ theory of disease, the ways in which medicine has changed everyday life, and the significance of modern medical technologies, to mention just a few. Current debates in bioethics about cloning, stem cell research, the human genome project, and the policies around genetic screening receive ample attention. Specific research projects and focuses include: intellectual property rights in biological materials, the uses of evidence in medical research and practice, the role of model organisms in medical and biological research, the history of psychiatry, war, trauma, rehabilitation, and psychiatry, posttraumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and the history of psychosomatic medicine.
Early modern science
In the 16th and early 17th century, science as we know it took shape when a small number of natural philosophers started to conduct experiments. This inaugurated one of the most exciting periods in the history of science, a period which has been dubbed the Scientific Revolution. Research in this area focuses on the role of scientific instruments in scientific experimentation, the structure of scientific experiments, the founding of scientific societies, their characteristics and functioning; and the correspondence between natural philosophers and early scientists. In addition, more general philosophical concerns about the nature and status of scientific knowledge and historical ontology are investigated.
Jointly with the Centre for Values, Ethics, and the Law in Medicine, the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science has organised a postgraduate program in Bioethics.