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UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies

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History and Philosophy of Science BSc

“I've enjoyed the course thoroughly and would recommend it to everyone. “ Undergraduate Feedback

UCAS U80 V550

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Science is much more than a bundle of facts that we patiently collect; it is also about a long history of conflicts and questions about how we understand and make sense of the world. This degree investigates the history of science from Antiquity to the present and around the globe. It also investigates science as a way of knowing. The goal is to better understand science’s many methods, fundamental concepts, logic, and ethics. Another goal is to build a broad perspective on the origins of science and its role in our modern world.

Many people select this degree simply to train their mind for future analytical and reflective work, perhaps in science or in careers elsewhere in our science-driven global economy. This study of history and philosophy of science is supported by a wide range of modules in contemporary science communication, science policy, and sociology of science. UCL is unique in the UK in offering this single honours BSc.

Our degree explores the sciences from three directions: 

  • history of science
  • philosophy of science
  • integrated history and philosophy of science (a thriving discipline we helped invent!)

All this is supported by a wide range of modules in science and society. UCL is unique in the UK in offering this single honours degree.

Common First Year

Our degrees follow a common first year whereby students in each degree take the same modules. We do this because we want a solid foundation for everyone. We also want to give you flexibility. At the end of the first year students have the opportunity to switch streams within the department. Our first year modules are organised into two core themes. 

History and Philosophy of Science core

  • HPSC1001 History of Science: Antiquity to Enlightenment
  • HPSC1003 Philosophy of Science 1
  • HPSC1011 History of Modern Science
  • HPSC1012 Investigating History and Philosophy of Science

Science and Society core

  • HPSC1004 Science Policy
  • HPSC1007 Investigating Science and Society
  • HPSC1008 Science Communication and Public Engagement
  • HPSC1010 Revealing Science

Second and Third Years

In the second and third years you take modules following a simple plan. We have a few compulsory modules. We also ask you to take a set of modules clustering in the specialisation of your degree. Beyond this, your degree builds with a supporting group of related modules in the department and from across UCL. Most students find there is far more variety than they could possibly take up. That leads to wonderful choices every year.

Core elements

We keep compulsory modules to a minimum:

  • HPSC3004 Dissertation

We use a simple structure for other parts of the degree. This is designed to maximise flexibility and cater to your growing choices.

Year 2

  • 3 option modules in History and Philosophy of Science
  • 1 option module in STS
  • 2 more modules from any subject within the department

Year 3

  • 3 option modules in History and Philosophy of Science
  • 2 more modules from any subject within the department

History and Philosophy of Science option modules

The department offers a wide range of option modules both in History and Philosophy of Science as an area of study and also across the whole range of the department, including:

2000-level

HPSC2001 Policy Issues in the Life Sciences
HPSC2002 Science in Popular Culture
HPSC2003 Philosophy of Science 2
HPSC2006 Science and Ethics
HPSC2010 Historiography of Science
HPSC2012 Science and Religion
HPSC2013 Evolution in Science and Culture
HPSC2019 History of Natural Sciences
HPSC2024 Special Topics in History and Philosophy of Science
HPSC2026 Science and Empire
HPSC2028 Thinking about Technology

3000-level

HPSC3002 Science, Warfare and Peace
HPSC3012 Science in the Twentieth Century
HPSC3014 Science in the Age of Newton
HPSC3015 History of Astronomy and Cosmology
HPSC3020 Philosophy of Natural Sciences
HPSC3022 Research-led History and Philosophy of Science
HPSC3028 Philosophy of Medicine
HPSC3029 History of Medicine
HPSC3030 Medieval Science
HPSC3031 Philosophy of Chemistry
HPSC3034 Science, Art and Philosophy
HPSC3035 Major Internship
HPSC3040 Science, Politics and the State in Russia and the Soviet Union
HPSC3041 Disease in History
HPSC3042 Madness and Society
HPSC3043 History of Social Sciences
HPSC3044 Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences
HPSC3045 Philosophy of Information
HPSC3048 Science in the Ancient World
HPSC3049 Sleep and Dreaming
HPSC3050 Science in Nineteenth-Century London
HPSC3051 Zoos in Science and Culture
HPSC3052 Nature, Technology, and the Environment
HPSC3054 Philosophy of Social Science
HPSC3055 Philosophy of Biological Sciences

Students also can take some modules classified as "Science and Society" (details). Not all modules are offered every year, and these titles evolve as we work to keep the programme on the cutting edge. We'll keep you up-to-date any changes.

Degree Benefits

  • Explore the history of science, from Antiquity to the present and across the world. This includes following changes as scientific knowledge moves between cultures
  • Investigate how scientific knowledge and methods are intertwined with other elements of society. Also, investigate how historians and sociologists piece together an understanding of the past based on evidence drawn from archives, libraries, museums, witnesses, and elsewhere
  • Investigate science as a way of knowing, including its many methods, fundamental concepts, logic, and ethics
  • Use science as a focus for developing expertise in key areas of philosophy, from metaphysics to aesthetics
  • Develop critical and reflective skills useful for careers well beyond academic work, such as law, investment, and consultancy. Also, learn how to use history and philosophy to assess, understand, and challenge positions in contemporary debates about science and technology

Science is neither timeless nor unchanging, and facts don’t simply speak for themselves. History and Philosophy of Science BSc aims to produce graduates ready to use deep historical and philosophical perspectives to interpret science’s influence on modern society. History provides a key route for cross-cultural comparison. Philosophy builds solid ground for discussing ethics, social justice, and relative merit.

With our focus on key skills, practical methods, and broader perspectives, we also aim to create versatile thinkers ready to engage emerging issues. This might involve contributing to debates on science funding and priority setting. It might involve assessments of conflicting or ambiguous evidence. It might involve consulting on the impact of new technologies and new discoveries.

This degree is designed to be flexible. In addition to the core modules, students have a strong choice of optional, exploratory modules. The real strength of the degree is its breadth across a wide range of themes in history and philosophy, held together by strong interdisciplinary connections. This provides an excellent springboard for specialization in the final year or in further study at the postgraduate level.

Your final year culminates in a research project of your own design, resulting in a dissertation approximately the length of a published academic paper. Normally, projects focus on case studies in history or philosophy of science, often developing ideas from original research. Some dissertations have been published; others have served as strong portfolio items for postgraduate applications and as superb conversation starters in interviews.

Your Learning

The History and Philosophy of Science BSc is taught by the Department of Science and Technology Studies, a department with a reputation for excellence in the classroom. Tutors have won local and international teaching awards. The department has recently received a UCL award for its public engagement. We consistently rank high in student evaluations. Typical comments rate us as friendly, supportive, down-to-earth, and inspirational.

Our teaching methods adapt to the specific needs of our students. Many modules include small group discussions and active participation. We make use of resources across London, from the Royal Society to the Wellcome Trust, from the Science Museum to Parliament. With 15-20 undergraduate students in each year group, we have a student-to-tutor ratio of approximately 4-to-1.

Assessment

Assessment is organised so you can develop skills for a wide range of academic challenges. We also want you to build a solid portfolio to demonstrate your abilities. Coursework ranges from short position pieces to significant research papers. In addition to essays, we sometimes assess using posters, blogs, and multimedia projects. Practical work includes mock parliamentary reports, radio programmes, presentations, and Web projects. Group work sometimes is used, as are unseen exams. Writing, presenting, and adapting to new audiences are key skills your tutors will help you to cultivate.