History and Philosophy of Science

Bringing together history, philosophy, and the sciences illuminates the way science is done. History examines the development of science over time, while philosophy gets at the nature or science by looking at how science works. The history and philosophy of science (HPS), as this field is called, shows that scientists ask the big questions that are typically considered humanities questions:  what is life, who are we, where did we come from, how can we achieve a good life, and such. In carrying out scientific research, researchers make choices and are driven by underlying assumptions all the time.  They usually do not articulate those assumptions, however.

Through our projects, we work with scientists to probe those assumptions and choices.  Sometimes we work historically, drawing from documents of the past to interpret the choices being made. At other times, we work with the scientists directly. A new collaboration with the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and our research with colleagues in the School of Life Sciences allow us to carry out work at the core of the humanities alongside scientists. As a result, our understanding of the history and nature of science improves and so does the work in the life sciences. Together we can ask new questions, drawing on integrated methods and shared perspectives.