History and Sociology of Science, PhD

The Department of History and Sociology of Science at Penn offers a distinctive Ph.D. program focusing on the social, historical, and cultural study of science, medicine, technology, and the environment. Our faculty and student interests span the early modern period to contemporary times, covering regions from around the globe. The city of Philadelphia offers a vibrant range of scholarly resources, including world-class archives, museums, libraries, universities, and learned societies. The Department has trained some of the most successful scholars practicing in the field today; in addition to faculty positions, many of our graduates also go on to successful careers in public history, publishing, policy, and consulting. Our Department is known for its intellectual rigor, innovative scholarship, and strong sense of camaraderie.

View the University’s Academic Rules for PhD Programs.

Required Courses

A minimum of 18 course units are required, 14 of which must be HSSC courses.

Core Requirement
HSSC 5050Seminar in the History and Sociology of Science 1
Subfield Requirements
Select three seminars in at least two of the following major subfields:
Other Requirements
Research Seminar 2
Pre-1850 Developments Seminar 3

Should take in the Fall semester of Year 1. 


Must receive an A- or higher.


Or a research paper dealing with the period before 1850 even if written for a course that includes materials from a later period.

Program Milestones

  • Successful passing of the formal Second Year Evaluation (as required by the University).
  • Demonstration of proficiency in two languages, a requirement that must be met before the Orals Examination may be scheduled;
  • Successful passing of the Orals Examination (usually by the end of your third year), demonstrating mastery of the literature in three special sub-fields, each jointly worked out by the student with a faculty member;
  • A dissertation proposal approved by a student’s adviser within six weeks of passing the Orals;
  • At least two years (4 semesters, or 4 courses) of mentored teaching experience.
  • A dissertation, submitted to and accepted and approved by the student’s dissertation committee, usually consisting of three members of the faculty, in accordance with University regulations.

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.