About the Program

view of Shepherd Labs front entrance

The Program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM) integrates faculty and students from several departments and programs at the University of Minnesota. Each faculty member has a joint appointment in a department in the College of Science and Engineering, the Medical School, or the College of Biological Sciences, and many have graduate appointments in other departments as well, ensuring close association with other related fields.

We have strong ties with the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, the Department of History, and the science and engineering departments where the faculty hold tenure. These university and departmental connections are a major source of intellectual stimulation and support for both faculty and graduate students.

In addition to our program offerings, HSTM has a research center, the Charles Babbage Institute for Computing, Information and Culture, which houses global archives and oral histories on the topics of Computing, Information Technology and society. We also sponsor a weekly colloquium and periodic symposia, bringing scholars from all over the world to the university. 

Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion

Our program encourages a diversity of methodological approaches, viewpoints, people, and practices in our research, teaching, outreach, and service. We are committed to promoting the success of all students and scholars, including BIPOC and international students and scholars; actively engaging in anti-racism work; supporting accessibility for all; and working together to create deeper, richer, and more inclusive histories of science, technology and medicine. Ongoing programmatic activities seeking to uphold these commitments are posted throughout this website. 

History of the Program

The Program in the History of Medicine (HMed) was inaugurated in 1967 when Leonard G. Wilson joined the faculty of the Medical School as the first Professor of the History of Medicine. His appointment was made possible by a grant from the Hill Family Foundation and an endowment raised by Owen H. Wangensteen, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery. Dr. Wangensteen also raised the initial endowment to found the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine that bears his name. In 1969, aided by a grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, a second faculty position was added, which has been held in turn by Guenter B. Risse (1969–71), Toby Gelfand (1971–74), John Eyler (1974–98), Jennifer Gunn (1999–2010), and Jole Shackelford (2010 to present). In 1968 the Program began its series of public lectures, which have been held annually ever since. The Program received its first lectureship endowment in 1984 from the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation. Subsequent endowments from other donors have made possible the Dorothy M. Bernstein Lecture in the History of Psychiatry (1999) and the Sally and Bruce Kantar Lecture in the History of Medicine (2000). The Graduate School authorized the Program to grant the Ph.D. in the History of Medicine and Biological Sciences in 1971, and the first Ph.D. was granted to Dale C. Smith in 1979. In 1986 a M.A. degree was added to the Program’s offerings. In 1998 John M. Eyler succeeded Leonard Wilson to the endowed professorship and became Director of the Program and was in turn succeeded by Jennifer Gunn in 2010.  A third faculty position was made possible in 2009 by funds provided and allocated by Vice President of the Academic Health Center Frank Cerra, and Dominique Tobbell joined the faculty. Dominique Tobbell was appointed director of the program in 2014. In 2019, a fourth faculty position was added, and Francesca Bortoletti was added to the HMed Faculty.

The Program in History of Science and Technology (HST) was inaugurated in 1972, when the university administration committed funds to establish a new program in history of science and technology. Roger H. Stuewer, a historian of modern physics, received an appointment in the Department of Physics as the coordinator of this effort, and subsequently became the founding director of the program. At that time, he was given one additional appointment, which went to Alan E. Shapiro, a historian of the physical sciences with a special focus on Newton. In 1974 the Hill Family Foundation (later the Northwest Area Foundation) awarded the program a grant that allowed it to add positions in history of biology and history of technology, teaching assistants, and a secretary. Malcolm Kottler and Edwin T. Layton were appointed to those faculty positions in 1975. In 1979 the Regents granted the program the authority to award graduate degrees, and in 1982 Eda Kranakis received its first Ph.D. In 1981, after a national competition, the Charles Babbage Foundation chose the University of Minnesota as the location for the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI) for the History of Information Processing, which added a major research center to the program. The director of CBI is a tenured member of the HST faculty. Arthur L. Norberg, a historian of technology, became the founding director of CBI. Robert W. Seidel, a historian of modern science and technology who joined the program in 1994, held a five-year term as director of CBI. In 1985 John Beatty succeeded Malcolm Kottler as historian of biology in the program. In 1989, Alan Shapiro succeeded Roger Stuewer as Director of the program. That same year Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, a historian of American science, joined the faculty. In 1991, after a national competition, the National Science Foundation awarded the program, together with the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, a five-year Research Training Grant (RTG) that provided significant resources to the program and enhanced its visibility and stature nationally and internationally. In 1999, 2000, and 2004, three new faculty members—Jennifer K. Alexander, Michel Janssen, and Mark E. Borrello—were hired to replace Ed Layton, Roger Stuewer, and John Beatty as historians of technology, physics, and biology, respectively. In 2005 Susan D. Jones, a historian of the biomedical sciences, joined the faculty. In 2006 Thomas Misa became the new director of CBI and joined the faculty. In 2008 Sally Gregory Kohlstedt succeeded Alan Shapiro as Director of the program. In 2011 the program got permission to hire a replacement for Alan Shapiro and in 2012 Victor Boantza, a historian of the physical sciences focusing mainly on the 18th century, was appointed. In 2013, Susan Jones succeeded Sally Gregory Kohlstedt as Director of the program. Mark Borrello, the current HST Director, was appointed in 2017. In 2018, Anna Graber joined the faculty as a historian of early modern earth sciences, and Jeff Yost became the director of the CBI. In 2019, the Program added a historian of technology to the faculty, Honghong Tinn.

In 2006 the University of Minnesota Regents approved a merger of the graduate programs in HST and HMed to create a new graduate Program in the History of the Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM), which was fully implemented in the fall of 2007. In 2018, the Charles Babbage Institute, dedicated to advancing our understanding of the history of computing and information technology, joined the Program in History of Science, Technology and Medicine as an affiliated research center. The program would not be able to function without its dedicated program administrators, Emmie Miller (HST) and Mary M. Thomas (HMed), both recipients of PhDs from the Program. More detailed information about people in the program (including visiting and adjunct faculty members, current graduate students, and alumni) is available in the People tab