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The goal of the graduate Program in History of Science at Princeton is to enhance our students' enthusiasm for the subject while also training them for the joint professional responsibilities of teaching and research. Under the aegis of the Department of History, the Program in History of Science treats science as an intellectual, cultural, and social phenomenon. Recognizing that the study of the history and social aspects of science requires special training and techniques not normally included in the education of professional historians or other scholars, the program provides qualified students with that special training while at the same time preparing them to teach and work in general history.
Our approach to graduate training is also distinctive in the extent to which it requires formal qualifications in other areas of history. Graduate students in this program are simultaneously members of the Department of History; in fact, their degrees are awarded in history. Faculty members in the program are also members of the Department of History.
The maximum period of regular enrollment in the program (as in the Department of History at large) is five years, including time spent on research in absentia. Students have the opportunity to be enrolled for up to two additional years in Dissertation Completion Enrollment (DCE) status if additional time is necessary to complete the dissertation.
Sample of written work.
Optional: Applicants may submit a statement with their application, briefly describing how their academic interests, background, or life experiences would advance Princeton’s commitment to diversity within the Graduate School and to training individuals in an increasingly diverse society. Please submit a succinct statement of no more than 500 words.
During the first two years, students pursue a pattern of course work aimed at preparing them for the general examination and training them in the research techniques of professional scholarship. Students normally participate in three graduate courses per term. Students lacking prior background are encouraged to take undergraduate courses to supplement their graduate training. Although the precise pattern of courses depends on the individual, students plan their programs within the broad outlines set by the general examination. Each course usually meets once a week for three hours. A course may be either the seminar type, centering on individual students preparing research papers, or the more general, reading type, aimed at having students gain a broad acquaintance with a subject or a mixture of both.
Program students should demonstrate a reading knowledge of two foreign languages as soon as possible after enrollment. French and German are normally recommended, but other languages relevant to the student’s prospective research may be substituted with the approval of the director of graduate studies. Candidates are normally not readmitted for a fifth term of study or permitted to complete the general examination until the language requirement has been satisfied.
The faculty of the Department of History set most of the language examinations. Examinations in some languages, however, may be administered by appropriate language departments at Princeton. Normally the examination consists of two passages to be translated, one with and one without a dictionary. Language examinations will be announced at the beginning of each semester. Other examinations should be scheduled in consultation with the director of graduate studies and (if appropriate) the department involved.
In addition to preparing for the general examination, students are advised to take seminars in the history of science that do not fall within their examination fields. Students focusing on European or American science are expected to take at least one course that deals with science, medicine, or technology in the non-Western world, and vice versa. Students are encouraged to look beyond the program as they pursue suitable coursework or language study related to their particular scholarly interests.
Students are required to write two research papers based on primary sources before sitting for the general examination. Students often write one of these research papers in the context of a graduate seminar and another based on independent research. The first must be completed and certified by June 15 of the first year of enrollment and the second by April 1 of the second year.
The general examination is normally taken at the end of the second year and consists of three sets of written and oral examinations in (1) a major field in the history of science, medicine, or technology; (2) a minor field in another area of history; and (3) one of the following options: (a) a second special field in the history of science, medicine, or technology, (b) a second field in another area of history, or (c) a field in some related subject, for example, philosophy of science, science and technology studies, or anthropology of science. Precise definitions of fields, and special concentrations within them, are worked out in consultation with the director of graduate studies for the Program in the History of Science and appropriate faculty members in the field before the beginning of the fourth semester of graduate study.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy, but also may be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program. Students who have satisfactorily passed all required coursework (with all incompletes resolved), fulfilled the language requirements in their field of study, and completed the two required research papers may be awarded an M.A. degree.
The Department of History tries to provide part-time teaching experience for most of the advanced graduate students who desire it. Teaching assistantships generally involve two to four classroom hours a week and should not interfere with progress toward completing the dissertation. Appointments are made by the department chair, according to the needs of the undergraduate teaching schedule, to third-, fourth-, and fifth-year graduate students.
Following the general examination, all students are required to attend a two-day seminar on the responsible conduct of research as well as the departmental prospectus workshop, which is graded on a pass/fail basis.
Students devote their last three years of study to the research for and writing of a dissertation. The dissertation ordinarily falls within a special field in the history of science that constitutes part of the student’s general examination. By December 1 of his or her third year of enrollment, each student is required to submit a detailed dissertation prospectus and outline for faculty approval; the deadline for students who take the general examination at a time other than May of the second year will be arranged in consultation with the director of graduate studies. Where research requires an absence abroad or elsewhere in this country, it usually takes place during the fourth year so that students may most effectively combine completion of the dissertation with the search for employment during the fifth year. Upon completion of the dissertation and its approval by at least two readers (usually, but not necessarily, members of the Department of History), the student takes a final public oral examination devoted to a defense of the dissertation and a discussion of its implications for further work.
The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.
The History of Science Interdepartmental Graduate Certificate Program is open to Princeton University graduate students who are not enrolled in the Program in History of Science (students must be currently enrolled to be eligible). It is aimed at enabling students who are taking seminars in the program, working closely with program faculty, and writing dissertations on aspects of the history of science, medicine, and technology to receive a formal credential in the field. Many such students prepare a generals field in history of science, technology, or medicine, but that is not a requirement for the certificate. Upon fulfilling all of the requirements, a student will receive a certificate from the Program in History of Science and is entitled to list the credential on his or her curriculum vitae. The certificate does not appear on a student’s official transcript.
The director of graduate studies for the Program in History of Science administers the certificate program.
Students cannot be admitted to Princeton University through the History of Science Interdepartmental Graduate Certificate Program since it is not a degree program.
Students must complete HOS 595: Introduction to the Historiography of Science, which is offered every other year, as well as two other history of science graduate courses or courses with history of science content, as determined by the director of graduate studies for the Program in History of Science.
Please note, courses taken for the History of Science Interdepartmental Graduate Certificate Program cannot be audited.
All students pursuing the certificate are expected to regularly attend the History of Science Program Seminar for at least two full semesters. Each student must complete two presentations (one of which may be a formal commentary) in the History of Science Program Seminar.
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.