Antiquated beakers from the baroque period

History and philosophy of science

Situated at the crossroads of science and the humanities
Our discipline provides the framework to critically engage with the social and cultural significance of the sciences that shape our world.

The field of study examines past and current developments in all areas of science, technology and medicine from a range of humanistic perspectives, using sociohistorical and philosophical techniques to explore their social, political, cultural and conceptual implications.

Our history and philosophy of science researchers have developed innovative interdisciplinary approaches to investigating and analysing developments in science, technology and medicine.

Publishing widely and enjoying international recognition, their active research records have attracted significant funding from both Australian and international sources, and they bring the latest scholarship to their teaching and research.

We regularly host international researchers who contribute new insights and ways of thinking, and both our researchers and our postgraduate students are involved in internationally collaborative research projects.

Research strengths

Our community of active researchers in the history and philosophy of science is one of the largest in the world; their research attracts significant funding from Australian and global sources.

They are actively engaged in international research projects in this specialised field, and have a broad range of international connections.


In the 16th and early 17th century, science as we know it took shape when a small number of natural philosophers started to conduct experiments. This inaugurated one of the most exciting periods in the history of science, a period which has been dubbed the Scientific Revolution.

Research in this area focuses on the role of scientific instruments in scientific experimentation, the structure of scientific experiments, the founding of scientific societies, their characteristics and functioning; and the correspondence between natural philosophers and early scientists. In addition, more general philosophical concerns about the nature and status of scientific knowledge and historical ontology are investigated.

Where did modern medicine originate? How do new medical technologies impact on our lives? How does Western medicine relate to alternative, non-Western approaches to healing?

In our research concentration on medicine and society, we trace the history of modern medicine, discussing topics such as the role of dissection in medical research and teaching, the evolution of the modern hospital, the influence of the germ theory of disease, the ways in which medicine has changed everyday life, and the significance of modern medical technologies, to mention just a few.

Current debates in bioethics about cloning, stem cell research, the human genome project, and the policies around genetic screening receive ample attention. Specific research projects and focuses include: intellectual property rights in biological materials, the uses of evidence in medical research and practice, the role of model organisms in medical and biological research, the history of psychiatry, war, trauma, rehabilitation, and psychiatry, posttraumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and the history of psychosomatic medicine.

The history of technology and its implications for the theory of history.