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Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science

Investigating how we know the world and ourselves
We are an interdisciplinary research centre exploring the historical, philosophical and cultural foundations of science, technology and medicine.

Our aims

We support self-reflective discourse among many disciplines to create a productive intellectual environment and promote collaboration between our members and the broader University. We welcome visiting fellows who can contribute to and benefit from this collaboration. Our research focuses on several overlapping subjects:

  • History of early modern science
  • History and philosophy of modern technoscience
  • History of medicine
  • History and philosophy of biology
  • History and philosophy of psychiatry
  • Language and memory
  • New agendas for the study of time
  • Foundations of physics
  • Logic and decision theory
  • Biohumanities

Research projects

Investigating the foundations of science from every angle

The Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science's diverse projects reflect the scope of our interests and expertise. Much of our work is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Our people

Our academics and researchers come from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Faculty of Science and the University of Sydney School of Medicine and Health.

Visiting professors

Research fellows


Our events

From time to time the centre holds lectures, symposiums and conferences to showcase our work and welcome visiting scholars to present their work. 

Workshop: The Berlin Academy

22 November 2019
Kevin Lee Room
Click here for more information and to register.

Click here for our events page

‘Robert Boyle’s blasphemous thoughts’: A public lecture by Professor Michael Hunter

Thursday 30 May 2019
Click here for more information

Themes from the work of Carla Rita Palmerino on Natural Philosophy

4–5 February 2019


Definitions in early modern natural philosophy, logic and mathematics

Friday 13 April 2018

Sponsored by the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science


  • Definitions as principles in early modern natural philosophy
    Professor Peter Anstey, The University of Sydney
  • From Pascal to Arnauld and Nicole: definitions in Port Royalist works
    Laura Kotevska, The University of Sydney
  • Logic in definitions and the search for the definition of continuity
    James Franklin, The University of NSW
  • Newton's definitions
    Kirsten Walsh, The University of Nottingham
MuST10: Causation and complexity
10th Munich-Sydney-Tilburg Conference in the Philosophy of Science

1-3 March 2017, The University of Sydney

Munich Centre for Mathematical Philosophy, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich
Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, University of Sydney
Tilburg Centre for Logic, Ethics and Philosophy of Science, The University of Tilburg

In collaboration with the Centre for Complex Systems, The University of Sydney. This international conference series focused on philosophical issues in the sciences that can be addressed using exact reasoning and which have some potential policy relevance. The conference brought together philosophers and scientists to explore these topics.

Keynote speakers

Download conference program (PDF/128KB)

Download abstracts (PDF/2.2MB)

Science and nature in the long 18th century

19 August 2016, The University of Sydney

The workshop examined a broad range of issues pertaining to the study of nature in Germany from the renouvellement of the Berlin Academy in the 1740s to the writings of Hegel in the early 19th century. Disciplinary boundaries and interrelations to specific writings in natural philosophy were also investigated, and we engaged with the thought and writings of Maupertuis, Formey, Kant, Schelling, Fichte and Hegel.

Philosophical and historical dimensions of biological individuality

18-21 July 2016

The problem of what constitutes a biological individual is an old one, but philosophers and historians recently have refreshed and transformed the conceptual field. This winter school explored similarities and differences between the individual of evolutionary theory and the organismal or physiological individual posited in developmental biology or modern immunology. We asked how the individual of natural selection might be related to, or distinguished from, physiological concepts such as the immunological self or other temporally framed entities. 

The fortunes of the speculative sciences in the early modern period

30 October 2015

In the 17th century the status and classification of the speculative sciences underwent significant change. Natural philosophy, for example, moved from being a speculative science to an experimental or practical science. In some quarters there was hostility to ‘speculative philosophy’ and a general devaluing of the epistemic status of the speculative sciences. We examined the causes and implications of such changes, the defenders of the speculative sciences, and the various reconfigurations of this category in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Aviation Cultures Mk II: Technology, culture, heritage

10–11 December 2015
The University of Sydney and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences 

Aviation has been an important aspect of Australian life for more than a century, yet we've only just begun to explore its cultural impact. From science to sociology, fashion to fiction, this event offered a truly national approach to interpreting the technologies, cultures and collections that embody Australia’s aviation heritage. 

Centre Director

Associate Professor Dominic Murphy
Associate Professor Dominic Murphy
Visit Dominic Murphy's academic profile

Contact us

  • Level 4, Carslaw Building F07 The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia