History of Science and Technology

Beginning Fall 2007, the History of Science and Technology (HST) graduate program merged with the History of Medicine (HMed) graduate program to form a new graduate program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Use the menu bar above to learn more about the HSTM combined program.

About the Program

The History of Science and Technology, a program within the College of Science and Engineering, is a dynamic interdisciplinary field of scholarship that studies the development of science and technology in their broader cultural context. The field is growing rapidly as people realize that science and technology are themselves among the most important cultural phenomena of the modern age. The Program in the History of Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota ranks among the country's best. It offers both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees as well as an undergraduate minor. Faculty hold tenure in the Departments of Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, and Electrical & Computer Engineering.  This unique model provides students with comprehensive opportunities for advanced research and study in history of the physical sciences, the biological sciences, and technology. Within these areas, students are encouraged to make use of the perspectives and methods of intellectual, institutional, social, economic, and cultural history.

History of the HST Program

The Program in History of Science and Technology (HST) was inaugurated in 1972, when the university administration committed funds to establish a new program in history of science and technology. Roger H. Stuewer, a historian of modern physics, received an appointment in the Department of Physics as the coordinator of this effort, and subsequently became the founding director of the program. At that time he was given one additional appointment, which went to Alan E. Shapiro, a historian of the physical sciences with a special focus on Newton. In 1974 the Hill Family Foundation (later the Northwest Area Foundation) awarded the program a grant that allowed it to add positions in history of biology and history of technology, teaching assistants, and a secretary. Malcolm Kottler and Edwin T. Layton were appointed to those faculty positions in 1975. In 1979 the Regents granted the program the authority to award graduate degrees, and in 1982 Eda Kranakis received its first Ph.D. In 1981, after a national competition, the Charles Babbage Foundation chose the University of Minnesota as the location for the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI) for the History of Information Processing, which added a major research center to the program. Arthur L. Norberg, a historian of technology, became the founding director of CBI. Robert W. Seidel, a historian of modern science and technology who joined the program in 1994, held a five-year term as director of CBI. In 1985 John Beatty succeeded Malcolm Kottler as historian of biology in the program. In 1989, Alan Shapiro succeeded Roger Stuewer as Director of the program. That same year Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, a historian of American science, joined the faculty. In 1991, after a national competition, the National Science Foundation awarded the program, together with the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, a five-year Research Training Grant (RTG) that provided significant resources to the program and enhanced its visibility and stature nationally and internationally. In 1999, 2000, and 2004, three new faculty members—Jennifer K. Alexander, Michel Janssen, and Mark E. Borrello—were hired to replace Ed Layton, Roger Stuewer, and John Beatty as historians of technology, physics, and biology, respectively. In 2005 Susan D. Jones, a historian of the biomedical sciences, joined the faculty. In 2006 Thomas Misa became the new director of CBI and joined the faculty. In 2008 Sally Gregory Kohlstedt succeeded Alan Shapiro as Director of the program. In 2011 the program got permission to hire a replacement for Alan Shapiro and in 2012 Victor Boantza, a historian of the physical sciences focusing mainly on the 18th century, was appointed. In 2013, Susan Jones succeeded Sally Gregory Kohlstedt as Director of the program.