Please click here for the Graduate Program in History of Science, Medicine, and Technology



Thank you for your interest in UCLA’s Minor in the History of Science and Medicine, based in the Department of History. If you wish to sign up for the minor, or if you have further questions, please e-mail Paul Padilla, Undergraduate Advisor to set up an appointment.


The history of science and medicine takes as its subject matter the ideas, practices, and people concerned with knowledge of the physical and biological universe. It links up with physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and medicine by using tools of historical analysis to explore the development, significance, and impact of these sciences from their origins in Europe to all other parts of the globe.

The minor at UCLA aims to give undergraduates majoring in fields other than history the opportunity to pursue a rigorous program of analysis of the historical dimensions of science and medicine. For students thinking of pursuing a career in science or medicine, studying the historical and cultural embedding of scientific disciplines can contribute to students’ understanding of their undergraduate major field and of themselves as practitioners of science or medicine. For all students, studying the role of science and medicine in culture and society contributes to the ability to think critically about how science does and should function.


Requirements for the minor include three lower-division and five upper-division courses.

The lower-division requirement is designed to give the student a broad base in time and space for understanding the development of science and medicine, while still allowing some choice of topics. Some students might have a particular interest in the ideas and techniques of physics and mathematics; others might be more drawn towards medicine and its social interactions. These courses are medium-sized lecture classes with discussion sections led by TAs.  Students in good academic standing (2.0 grade-point average), who have completed 45 units, may declare the minor anytime after they have completed one of the lower-division courses. Please note that all seven lower-division courses that can count for the minor also carry GE credit in Social Sciences C1 (Historical Analysis), or Social Sciences C2 (Social Analysis), or Humanities. It is thus possible for a student to satisfy the requirement of three lower-division courses for the minor, and also have these courses count as three courses to satisfy GE requirements.

The upper-division requirement of five courses allows students to choose from an array of more focused classes. These courses are usually smaller, with 10 – 45 students. In upper-division history classes, students may give oral reports, engage in the discussion and analysis of historical scholarship, and do individual research projects. Some of these classes will be seminars, limited in enrollment to 15 and usually requiring a longer research paper or interpretive essay. Students in the minor are required to take one such course with a research paper as a way of refining critical skills and developing talents of analysis and argument. Alternatively, the research paper may, with the approval of History Department undergraduate advisor, or the appropriate faculty member in the course, be written in conjunction with an upper-division lecture class or an independent study course (History 197). In addition to the extensive resources of the Young Research Library, students carrying out such research can draw on the world-class holdings of rare books and first editions in the History and Special Collections Division of the Biomedical Library.



The minor in History of Science and Medicine is designed for students who wish to augment their major, perhaps in one of the sciences, with a series of courses that analyze the historical growth, impact, and significance of science and medicine in western and world culture. The minor consists of a choice of lower-division courses that expose the student to overviews of science and medicine over long time periods or approached with specific thematic concerns.

Upper-division courses offer smaller, more focused classes that explore crucial episodes or areas with a more rigorous and sophisticated content and methodology. To enter the minor, a student must be in good academic standing (2.0 grade-point average), must have completed 45 units and at least one lower-division course in the history of science or medicine for a grade, and must file a petition at the office of the History Department undergraduate advisor in Bunche Hall.

Lower-division requirement: 3 courses from among the following:

  • History 3A. Introduction to the History of Science: The Scientific Revolution
  • History 3B. Introduction to the History of Science: Science from Newton to Darwin
  • History 3C. Introduction to the History of Science: Science Since 1870
  • History 3D. The History of Medicine
  • History 2B. Social Knowledge and Social Power
  • History 2D. Science, Magic and Religion: 1600 to the Present
  • Philosophy 8. Introduction to the Philosophy of Science.

Upper-division requirements: 5 courses from among the following:

  • Any course in the sequence History 179A-C, 180A-C or 191I
  • Any upper division Honors Collegium course with history of science or history of medicine content
  • Anthropology 182
  • Anthropology 183
  • Neurobiology/Medical History M169
  • Philosophy 124
  • Physiological Science/Neurobiology Ml68

Students may also petition to have other relevant courses, including those from other departments, applied toward the upper-division requirements of the minor.

At least one of the upper-division courses, to be selected and approved in consultation with the undergraduate advisor for the minor, must involve writing a research or interpretative paper of significant length and intellectual content.

Only one course applied toward the student’s major may also be applied toward this minor. One course may be taken P/NP; the others must be taken for letter grades, with an overall C (2.0) average or better. Transfer credit for courses may be subject to departmental approval. Successful completion of the minor is indicated on the transcript and diploma.


The faculty teaching in the minor is one of international distinction. The core members of the group, who offer more than one course in the history of science and medicine per year, are designated in the following list with * . The list also contains a brief description of each faculty member’s research interests.

  • Emily Abel (Health Services/School of Public Health, Professor): public health and care- giving in 19th- and 20th-century America
  • Joel Braslow (Psychiatry and History, Associate Professor): psychiatry in 20th-century America
  • Soraya de Chadarevian* (History, Professor): history of 20th-century biology, especially molecular biology and genetics
  • Robert Frank, Jr.* (Neurobiology/Medical History and History, Professor): history of medicine; the laboratory medical sciences, especially physiology, in the 19th and 20th centuries; history of the neurosciences; disease and its historical effects; historical demography
  • Margaret Jacob* (History, Professor): the scientific revolution in its cultural, social, and economic significance; science, religion, and magic
  • Theodore M. Porter* (History, Professor): physical sciences since the enlightenment; statistics and quantification in history; social sciences in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • Mary Terrall* (History, Associate Professor): the scientific revolution of the l6th-l8th centuries; science and the Enlightenment; science and gender
  • Sharon Traweek* (History and Women’s Studies, Associate Professor): physical sciences and “Big Science” in the 20th century, especially accelerators; cultural anthropology of science and technology; science and technology in modem Japan; science, technology and colonialization; science, technology and gender
  • M. Norton Wise* (History, Professor): physical sciences, especially physics, in the 19th and 20th centuries; use of mathematics in physics; cultural impact of physics

This permanent faculty is also frequently supplemented by visiting scholars who teach courses within the minor.


The group of historians of science and medicine at UCLA brings guest speakers to campus for lectures and symposia on a regular basis. The History of Science Colloquium takes place most Monday afternoons and the UCLA Program in Medical Classics hosts well-known speakers on a variety of medically related topics once a month. The Southern California Colloquium in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology, sponsors occasional all-day conferences on special themes. Undergraduates who are minoring in the history of science and medicine are welcome to attend these events.

In addition, the History Department offers the Franklin D. Murphy, M.D. Prize for the best undergraduate paper related to the history of medicine.