Additional Information on the History and Philosophy of Science Option
HPS immerses students in the historical and philosophical issues that arise from science and technology. HPS courses tackle questions such as the following: To what extent was the scientific revolution revolutionary? What is a scientific explanation and how do scientists go about constructing and justifying one? How have conceptions of scientific experimentation changed over time? How and why did modern physics (or chemistry or biology) emerge in the way that it did? How should the theory of evolution inform our conception of the modern mind and brain? What role can neuroscience play in solving the "mind-body" problem? This option thus aims to give students a broad, basic understanding of how science is practiced and how that practice has changed over time.
HPS is unique in that historians and philosophers maintain close ties with their colleagues in the sciences. For example, the Einstein Papers Project enables historians to connect with physicists. Philosophers Steve Quartz and Fiona Cowie collaborate with faculty in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering. Researchers from different divisions also regularly attend HPS seminars.
HPS is also uniquely focused on undergraduate teaching, faculty research, and inviting historians and philosophers to collaborate at Caltech. Visitors have included Timothy Breen, Anthony Grafton, Evelyn Fox Keller, John Heilbron, Robert Iliffe, Myles W. Jackson, Lisa Jardine, Naomi Oreskes, Jürgen Renn, and Noel Swerdlow. The program also hosts the William and Myrtle Harris Distinguished Lectures in Science and Civilization, a program that aims to foster greater understanding between the sciences and the humanities by bringing scholars from both sides of the intellectual divide to Caltech to speak about their work and its broader social and intellectual context. Past speakers in this series have included Harold Varmus, Oliver Sacks, and Richard Rhodes. More recently, the program has launched a new lecture series, Exploration: The Globe and Beyond, aimed at bringing together a diverse community around the broad subject of exploration, from antiquity to the present and from exploration on Earth to that of the solar system.
HPS faculty members serve on the boards of numerous journals and series in their fields. Three journals and two book series edited by Jed Z. Buchwald on the history of science are either entirely or partly based at Caltech: Archive for History of Exact Sciences (Springer), Perspectives on Science (MIT), Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (Springer), Archimedes (Kluwer), and Transformations (MIT). Both Archimedes and Transformations explicitly seek work that unites history and philosophy of science, emphasizing the connections fostered by Caltech's HPS program. Perspectives publishes work that tackles difficult and pressing issues in both the history and philosophy of science.
The HPS program has continued to grow. In the spring of 2002, Mordechai Feingold, a social and institutional historian of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century science, joined the faculty. His research brought an essential component to the program, as the very structure of modern science has its roots in the early modern period. His work also enhances connections with colleagues in history and literature. Gideon Manning, who came to Caltech in 2007, has contributed his expertise in medieval and early modern philosophy, as well as history and philosophy of biology and medicine. With his arrival in 2010, Nicolas Wey-Gomez brought expertise on the history of cartography, geography, and exploration since antiquity. And in 2013, Frederick Eberhardt joined the program. He brings together the fields of philosophy, computer science, and psychology. Meanwhile, the program continues to explore how empirical ethics can engage with the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century biology. These additions and new research thrusts combine with existing strengths to produce a uniquely focused, collegial, and scientifically engaged program in the history and philosophy of science.
NOTE: The official source on requirements for graduation is the Caltech catalog from the year in which a student began studies at Caltech. Please see the catalog online, from this and previous years, for more information regarding the applicable option and minor requirements.