Admissions to the undergraduate major in history of science, medicine, and technology and the combined major history and history of science, medicine, and technology will be suspended effective fall 2017. Summer 2017 will be the last term students may declare the majors. Please consult with the history advisor about ways in which the history major can be completed with coursework in history of science and medical history.

To study history is to study change: historians are experts in examining and interpreting human identities and transformations of societies and civilizations over time. They use a range of methods and analytical tools to answer questions about the past and to reconstruct the diversity of human experience: how profoundly people have differed in their ideas, institutions, and cultural practices; how widely their experiences have varied by time and place, and the ways they have struggled while inhabiting a shared world. Historians use a wide range of sources to weave individual lives and collective actions into narratives that bring critical perspectives on both our past and our present. Studying history helps us understand and grapple with complex questions and dilemmas by examining how the past has shaped (and continues to shape) global, national, and local relationships between societies and people. 

Pending final approval by the University Academic Planning Committee, admission to this major will be suspended.  Please consult with the history advisor about ways in which the history major can be completed with coursework in history of science and medical history.

To be accepted as a major in history of science, medicine, and technology, the student must declare with the history undergraduate advisor.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.
Foreign Language
  • Complete the fourth unit of a foreign language; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a foreign language and the second unit of an additional foreign language

Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include one 3+ credit course in the biological sciences; must include one 3+ credit course in the physical sciences
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

Pending final approval by the University Academic Planning Committee, admission to this major will be suspended.  Please consult with the history advisor about ways in which the history major can be completed with coursework in history of science and medical history.

The major requires a minimum of 30 credits.

Select at least 24 credits in history of science 124
Select 6 credits in science or mathematics above the elementary level (not to include mathematics courses numbered 223 and below)6
Total Credits30

All majors are required to take HIST SCI 555, the department's capstone seminar, in the junior or senior year. 

One 3-credit course toward the 24-credit minimum may be chosen from approved courses in related disciplines. These courses include:

PHILOS 520 Philosophy of the Natural Sciences3
PHILOS 521 Philosophy of the Social Sciences3
PHILOS/​ENVIR ST  523 Philosophical Problems of the Biological Sciences3
PHILOS/​MED HIST  558 Ethical Issues in Health Care3
MED HIST/​AGRONOMY/​C&E SOC/​PHILOS  565 The Ethics of Modern Biotechnology3-4
SOC 531 Sociology of Medicine3

Other substitutions may be allowed at the discretion of the undergraduate advisor. ILS 201 Western Culture: Science, Technology, Philosophy I or ILS 202 Western Culture: Science, Technology, Philosophy II may be used in place of HIST SCI 201 The Origins of Scientific Thought or HIST SCI 202 The Making of Modern Science to count toward the major requirements; ILS 271 Pre-Copernican Astronomy and Cosmology in Crosscultural Perspective may be used as a regular course in the major.

All students must fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. Departmental courses above the elementary level count toward this requirement.

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology Major in consultation with the departmental undergraduate advisor.

Honors in the History of Science, Medicine and TEchnology Major Requirements

To earn a B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Major in History of Science, Medicine and Technology students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
  • Earn a 3.500 GPA for all upper-level1 HIST SCI courses
  • Of the 24 departmental credits required, at least 15 must come from courses numbers 300–599 or HIST SCI 615 The History of Evolutionary Thought 
  • Complete one of the following: HIST SCI 180 Freshman Honors Seminar: History of Science, Technology and Medicine, HIST SCI 280 Honors Seminar: Studies in Science, Technology, Medicine, HIST SCI/​MED HIST  284 Physician in History (Honors) (in conjunction with HIST SCI/​MED HIST  212 Bodies, Diseases, and Healers: An Introduction to the History of Medicine), or one seminar (minimum of 3 credits) offered by the department at the upper-division level.
  • HIST SCI 555 Undergraduate Seminar in History of Science should be taken before embarking on the Senior Honors Thesis; in exceptional cases, HIST SCI 555 Undergraduate Seminar in History of Science may be taken concurrently with HIST SCI 681 Senior Honors Thesis.
  • Complete a two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in HIST SCI 681 Senior Honors Thesis and HIST SCI 682 Senior Honors Thesis, for a total of 6 credits.

Upper level includes all intermediate- and advanced-level courses

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Goals of the Major

The goal of the history major is to offer students the knowledge and skills they need to gain a critical perspective on the past.  Students will learn to define important historical questions, analyze the relevant evidence with rigor and creativity, and present convincing conclusions based on original research in a manner that contributes to academic and public discussions. In History, as in other humanistic disciplines, students will practice resourceful inquiry and careful reading. They will advance their writing and public speaking skills to engage historical and contemporary issues.

To ensure that students gain exposure to some of the great diversity of topics, methodologies, and philosophical concerns that inform the study of history, the department requires a combination of courses that offers depth, breadth, and variety of exposition. Through those courses, students should develop:

  • Broad acquaintance with several geographic areas of the world and with both the pre-modern and modern eras.
  • Familiarity with the range of sources and modes through which historical information can be found and expressed. Sources may include textual, oral, physical, and visual materials. The data within them may be qualitative or quantitative, and they may be available in printed, digital, or other formats. Modes of expression may include textbooks, monographs, scholarly articles, essays, literary works, or digital presentations.
  • In-depth understanding of a topic of their choice through original or creative research.
  • The ability to identify the skills developed in the history major and to articulate the applicability of those skills to a variety of endeavors and career paths beyond the professional practice of history.

If desired, students may also choose to pursue a Global Track within the History major that emphasizes the study of cross-cultural and transnational historical connections.

Skills Developed in the Major

Define Important Historical Questions

  • Pose a historical question and explain its academic and public implications.
  • Using appropriate research procedures and aids, find the secondary resources in history and other disciplines available to answer a historical question.
  • Evaluate the evidentiary and theoretical bases of pertinent historical conversations in order to highlight opportunities for further investigation.

Collect and Analyze Evidence

  • Identify the range and limitations of sources available to engage the historical problem under investigation. 
  • Examine the context in which sources were created, search for chronological and other relationships among them, and assess the sources in light of that knowledge.
  • Employ and, if necessary, modify appropriate theoretical frameworks to examine sources and develop arguments.

Present Original Conclusions

  • Present original and coherent findings through clearly written, persuasive arguments and narratives.
  • Orally convey persuasive arguments, whether in formal presentations or informal discussions.
  • Use appropriate presentation formats and platforms to share information with academic and public audiences.

Contribute to Ongoing Discussions

  • Extend insights from research to analysis of other historical problems.
  • Demonstrate the relevance of a historical perspective to contemporary issues.
  • Recognize, challenge, and avoid false analogies, overgeneralizations, anachronisms, and other logical fallacies.