Undergraduate Courses

For course times, locations, and syllabi for the current academic year, ** please see OCI (Online Course Information). **

Also note that some graduate courses may also be open to undergraduates with permission of the instructor.

For the short list of current HSHM courses – including pathway assignments – please:

>> Click HERE to download the 2016–2017 HSHM course spreadsheet <<


Freshman Seminars

Epidemics in Global Perspective
HSHM 007 / HUMS 076
William Summers

Interaction of epidemic diseases and society. The response of government, medicine, and the public to the threat or actual presence of widespread contagious diseases. The notion of major epidemics as one of the key contingencies of history, critically examined through contemporary medical, political, and literary accounts. The changing responses of societies and governments to epidemics as well as the reasons for those responses.

Computers, Culture, and Biology
HSHM 009 / HIST 099
Joanna Radin

Electronic life and the history of the current digital age, evaluated to better understand how it has transformed, and is continuing to transform, fundamental questions about what it means to be alive. Examination of early histories of computation and communication and their transformations and intersections with bodies and environments. Key topics include artificial intelligence, the Internet, virtual reality, “big data,” and synthetic biology.


Lecture Courses

Media & Medicine in Modern America
HSHM 202 / AMST 247 / HIST 147 / HLTH 170
John Warner and Gretchen Berland

Relationships between medicine, health, and the media in the United States from 1870 to the present. The changing role of the media in shaping conceptions of the body, creating new diseases, influencing health and health policy, crafting the image of the medical profession, informing expectations of medicine and constructions of citizenship, and the medicalization of American life.

American Environmental History
HSHM 204 / AMST 163 / HIST 120 / EVST 120
Paul Sabin

Ways in which people have shaped and been shaped by the changing environments of North America from precolinial times to the present. Migration of species and trade in commodities; contrasting uses of land; the impact of industry and markets; the rise of modern conservation and environmental movements; the development of public policy; the global search for resources by the United States. 

Global Catastrophe since 1750
HSHM 211 / G&G 211 / EVST 211 / HIST 143
William Rankin

A history of the geological, atmospheric, and environmental sciences, with a focus on predictions of global catastrophe. Topics range from headline catastrophes such as global warming, ozone depletion, and nuclear winter to historical debates about the age of the Earth, the nature of fossils, and the management of natural resources. Tensions between science and religion; the role of science in government; environmental economics; the politics of prediction, modeling, and incomplete evidence.

Historical Perspectives on Global Health
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 212 / HLTH 280 / HIST 146
Joanna Radin

The broader historical context of contemporary practices, policies, and values associated with the concept of global health. Historical formations around ideas about disease, colonialism, race, gender, science, diplomacy, security, economy, and humanitarianism; ways in which these formations have shaped and been shaped by attempts to negotiate problems of health and well-being that transcend geopolitical borders.

Extraterrestrials in History
HSHM 214 / HIST 402
Ivano Dal Prete

The notion of extraterrestrials and “radical others” in history and culture from antiquity to the present. Topics include other worlds and their inhabitants in ancient Greece; medieval debates on the plurality of worlds; angels, freaks, native Americans, and other “aliens” of the Renaissance; comet dwellers in puritan New England; Mars as a socialist utopia in the early twentieth century; and visitors from space in American popular culture.

Public Health in America, 1793 to the Present
HSHM 215 / HIST 140
Naomi Rogers

A survey of public health in America from the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 to AIDS and breast cancer activism at the end of the past century. Focusing on medicine and the state, topics include quarantines, failures and successes of medical and social welfare, the experiences of healers and patients, and organized medicine and its critics.

Minds and Brains in America
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 216 / HIST 118 / PSYC 135 / CGSC 135
Henry Cowles

A survey of the science and medicine of mind and brain since 1800. Topics include madness and the asylum; phrenology and psychoanalysis; psychology in politics, law, and advertising; the rise of the “neuro” disciplines; and mental health in public life. Sources from fields such as neurology, physiology, psychology, psychiatry, and philosophy. Readings from works by Darwin, James, Freud, Foucault, Chomsky, and Pinker.

Science from Newton to Neutrons
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 218 / HIST 153
William Summers

A study of major themes and ideas in science from the 17th C to the 20th C with a focus on evolving descriptions and theories of matter and energy, physics and chemistry.  The evolution of Newtonian ideas to the world of modern physics and the transition from alchemical thinking to the chemical revolution.

The Scientific Revolution
HSHM 226 / HIST 236 / HUMS 342
Paola Bertucci

The changing relationship between the natural world and the arts from Leonardo to Newton. Topics include the scientific revolution, Renaissance anatomy and astronomy, and alchemy and natural history.

Science in the Ancient and Premodern World
HSHM 227 / HIST tbd
Ivano Dal Prete

The engagement of premodern civilizations with the study of nature, from antiquity to c. 1500. Middle Eastern and Greco-Roman scientific traditions, cross-cultural dissemination with India and China, natural philosophy in the Islamic and Christian Middle Ages. Emphasis on the visual and material culture of science. No background in history or science is required.

Epidemics and Society in the West since 1600
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 235 / HIST 234
Frank Snowden

A study of the impact of epidemic diseases such as bubonic plague, cholera, malaria, and AIDS on society, public health, and the medical profession in comparative and international perspective. Topics include popular culture and mass hysteria, the mortality revolution, urban renewal and rebuilding, sanitation, the germ theory of disease, the emergence of scientific medicine, and debates over the biomedical model of disease.

Molecules, Life, and Disease: Twentieth Century
HSHM 242 / HIST 193
William Summers

The emergence of the molecular vision of life and disease in the twentieth century. Topics include the role of technology and research practices, intellectual and political migrations, science policy and philanthropic foundations, constructions of risks and patenting of life, big science and biotechnology, politics of memory, and popular representation of science. Relationships to broad intellectual, social, cultural, and political changes.

Undergraduate Seminars

Historical Perspectives on Gender and Technology
HSHM 405 / HIST 463J
Jenna Healey

Exploration of the historical connection between gender and technology; how gender has influenced the design, production, and consumption of technology, as well as the ways in which medical technologies have altered ideas about sex and gender. Topics include domestic design, cyborg feminism, reproductive technologies, sex reassignment surgery, and women in computing.

Heathcare for the Urban Poor, 20th-Century US
HSHM 406 / HIST tbd
Sakena Abedin

An exploration of the institutions, movements and policies that have aimed to provide healthcare for the urban poor in 20th-century America, with an emphasis on the ideas (about health, cities, neighborhoods, poverty, race, gender, difference, etc.) that shaped them.  Topics include hospitals, health centers, public health programs, the medical civil rights movement, the women’s health movement and national healthcare policies such as Medicare and Medicaid. 

Collecting Nature and Art in the Preindustrial World
HSHM 407 / HIST 176J
Paola Bertucci

A history of museums before the emergence of the modern museum. Focus on: cabinets of curiosities and Wunderkammern, anatomical theaters and apothecaries’ shops, alchemical workshops and theaters of machines, collections of monsters, rarities, and exotic specimens.

Science and Human Sciences
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 408 / HUMS 306
Gary Tomlinson

The modern dichotomy of natural science and human science, i.e., the totality of disciplines devoted to human experience, as it has developed from the mid-seventeenth century to the present. Focus on key works by Galileo Galilei, Giambattista Vico, Charles Darwin, and Terrence Deacon. The shifting relations of Western understandings of the natural and human realms.

History of the Laboratory
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 412 / HIST 429J
Chitra Ramalingam

The social and cultural history of the experimental laboratory as a site for scientific activity, from early modern origins to the present day. Topics will range across the physical and life sciences and will include: the early modern origins of the laboratory; private, institutional, and state laboratories; relations between labs and field stations; the lab in the colonial and developing world; industrial and corporate labs; laboratory architecture; secrecy and openness; gender in the experimental workplace; and popular representations of the laboratory.

Ancient Greek Medicine and Healing
HSHM 414 / CLCV 134
Jessica Lamont

An introduction to Greek medicine and healing practices from the fifth century BCE to the second century CE, with attention to central concepts, methods, and theories. The relation of scientific theories to clinical practice, magic, temple medicine, and Greek philosophy are considered.

Historical Perspectives on Science and Religion
HSHM 415 / HIST tbd
Ivano Dal Prete

The engagement between science and religion from a historical standpoint and a multicultural perspective. The Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Christian traditions; the roots of modern creationism; salvation expectations and the rise of modern science and technology. General knowledge of western and world history is expected.

History of Addiction
HSHM 420 / HIST 418J / PSYC 436
Henry Cowles

A survey of the understanding and treatment of addiction in the modern period. Topics include psychology and psychiatry; alcoholism, abstinence, and prohibition; gambling and other behavioral addictions; recent work on habit formation; and addiction narratives in literature and film. Readings include primary texts from a range of scientific and medical fields as well as from court cases, political debates, and social and religious movements.

Cartography, Territory and Identity
HSHM 422 / HIST 440J
William Rankin

Exploration of how maps shape assumptions about territory, land, sovereignty, and identity. The relationship between scientific cartography and conquest, the geography of statecraft, religious cartographies, encounters between Western and non-Western cultures, and reactions to cartographic objectivity. Students make their own maps. No previous experience in cartography or graphic design required.

Biomedical Futures Since 1945
HSHM 423 / HIST 417J
Joanna Radin

Ideas about biomedicine’s promises and perils as they have been realized differently across place and time. Visions of the future of biomedicine that have shaped public policy, medical practice, and therapeutic innovation. Speculation about what medicine would come to look like in time. Ideas from literature, film, advertisements, policy documents, and medical texts around the world since World War II.

Science and Religion in Spanish Narrative, 1875–1915
HSHM 434 / SPAN 309
Leslie Harkema

The literary response to debates surrounding scientific advances and religious belief in Spanish novels and stories of the modernist era. Authors include Benito Pérez Galdós, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Miguel de Unamuno, and Pío Baroja.

The Global Crisis of Malaria
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 437 / HIST 435J
Frank Snowden

The global crisis of malaria examined in comparative and historical context. The mosquito theory of transmission and other developments in scientific understanding of the disease; World Health Organization strategies to eradicate malaria since 1955; the development of tools such as insecticides, medication, and bed nets; the attempt to create an effective vaccine.

History of Chinese Science
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 447 / HIST 379J
William Summers

Major themes in Chinese scientific thinking from antiquity to the twentieth century. Non-Western concepts of nature and the development of science in China; East-West scientific exchanges; and China’s role in modern science.

American Medicine and the Cold War
HSHM 448 / HIST 151J / WGSS 448
Naomi Rogers

The social, cultural, and political history of American medicine from 1945 to 1960. The defeat of national health insurance; racism in health care; patient activism; the role of gender in defining medical professionalism and family health; the rise of atomic medicine; McCarthyism in medicine; and the polio vaccine trials and the making of science journalism.

History of Human Experimentation since 1800
HSHM 456 / HIST 465J
Jenna Healey

This course traces the history of human experimentation from early debates about the nature of experimental medicine in the nineteenth century to the emergence of institutionalized bioethics in the late twentieth century. Topics include the role of race in human subject research, the development of IRBs (institutional review boards), and the globalization of clinical trials.

Other Minds
HSHM 457 / PYSC 455 / HUMS 457
Henry Cowles and Laurie Santos

A historical and scientific perspective on what this course will refer to as “other minds.” Students have the opportunity to study key scientific papers and interact with international experts on such topics as the cognitive capacities that allow humans to think of animal species as deserving of compassion and respect; why certain human groups are considered “less than” human; and what makes the human mind special. (Prerequisites: one course in psychology and one course in historical perspectives, or with permission of the instructor.)

Spies, Secrets, and Science
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 459 / HUMS 359 / HIST 159J
Paola Bertucci

The relationship between secrecy, intellectual property, and science from the Middle Ages to the Cold War. Topics include alchemy and esoteric knowledge; the Manhattan Project and other secret scientific projects run by the state: the history of patents and copyright laws; and scientists as spies.

Art, Technology, and Science from Antiquity to 1800
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 460 / HUMS 356 / HIST 257J
Paola Bertucci

Changes in the notions of art and science in the West through 1800. The association of the term “art” with the fine arts as a legacy of the Enlightenment; implications of this semantic shift for early modern European culture. Visual and material cultures of science, including anatomical and natural history illustrations, curiosity cabinets and Wunderkammern, microscopy and astronomy, Greek and Roman military technology and warfare, and Leonardo and the engineers of the Renaissance. Use of rare books, manuscripts, and historical scientific instruments from library and museum collections at Yale.

Sex, Life, and Generation
HSHM 468 / HIST 455J
Ivano Dal Prete

Theories and practices of life, sex and generation in history perspective. From the social control of abortion and infanticide in early-modern societies, to the changing status of the embryo, to the lure of artificial life.

Photography and the Sciences
not offered 2016–2017
HSHM 469 / HIST 420J
Chitra Ramalingam

Does photography belong in the history of art, or does its status as an “automatic” or “scientific” recording technique and its many uses in the sciences distinguish its history from that of earlier visual media? How does photography look when we approach it from the cultural history of science? How might role in the sciences have shaped photographic aesthetics in the arts? This course will examine the making of photography’s discursive identity as an experimental and evidentiary medium in the sciences, from its announcement to the public in 1839 to the digital innovations of the present day. We take a historical and archival perspective on uses for (and debates over) photography in different fields of the natural and human sciences, grounded in visits to photographic collections at Yale.