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Department of History of Science records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-04-240

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of the History of Science Department range in date from its genesis in 1960 to 1982, plus 2015-Ongoing for the archived websites, and are, for the most part, the products of the Chairmen: Harry Woolf (1961-1973), Robert Kargon (1973-1975, 1982- ), William Coleman (1975-1978), and Owen Hannaway (1978-1981). The records are divided into three series: (1) Departmental Administrative Records, 1963-1982; (2) Academic Programs, 1965-1982; (3) The Johns Hopkins University, 1960-1978; and (4) Websites, 2015-Ongoing. The records cover a broad range of the Department's activities, including administering the Department, planning and executing academic programs, engaging in University-wide activities, and maintaining professional contacts with colleagues in other institutions. Of particular interest are those records which reflect the Department's collaboration with other disciplines at Hopkins and with other universities, which enhanced the academic program. Also of interest are files relating to some of the pressing concerns of the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as the Vietnam War, ROTC, student participation in academic governance, and academic reform.


  • Creation: 1960-1982
  • Creation: 2015 - Ongoing


Conditions Governing Access

All collections are closed except to office of origin or original owner until processed. University records are closed for 25 years from the point of creation. These files contain personnel records and personally identifiable information, which are subject to further restrictions.

Access is restricted to education records of living students or former students, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, unless the student or former student grants access in writing. If it is not possible to verify date of death, the student will be assumed to be deceased 80 years after date of graduation, or date of last attendance.


On March 6, 1961, Dean G. Heberton Evans, Jr. appointed Harry Woolf of the University of Washington as the first Professor of History of Science at The Johns Hopkins University. Woolf's appointment was within the Department of History, but Woolf and the administration agreed from the beginning that a separate department would, in all likelihood, be created. Woolf immediately began the search for two junior faculty members in his field. The administration also promised him fellowship support for two graduate students (in the form of $3,000 plus tuition) and $10,000 for library purchases. The Johns Hopkins University Press took responsibility for the publication of ISIS, the History of Science journal which Woolf edited.

At the time of Woolf's appointment, he was about to undertake a National Science Foundation senior post-doctoral fellowship to do research in Europe from September 1, 1961, until August 31, 1962. Thus, the actual commencement of the History of Science program was delayed by a year, though Woolf spent time during his leave-of-absence planning for the department and attempting to manage the affairs of ISIS long-distance. It was on December 27, 1961, that Woolf circulated among universities and other scholarly institutions that the Hopkins Department of History had established a new graduate program in the History of Science, with courses to begin in the autumn of 1962.

The program got off to a good start. In 1961, Willis K. Shepard endowed a chair in the History of Science. The new field also received much support from Hopkins scholars in related disciplines: History, Philosophy of Science, and Literature and Science. Then, on January 23, 1964, Dean G. Heberton Evans, Jr. informed Harry Woolf that the Trustees had approved the establishment of a Department of History of Science on January 13, 1964.

On January 29, 1969, the Academic Council and Allyn Kimball, Dean of Arts and Sciences, gave their approval to the establishment of the Center for History and Philosophy of Science. Although at first difficult to come by, eventually the Center received enough funding to get underway. In the proposal, the purpose of the Center is described as "... join[ing] together researches in the History of Science and in the Philosophy of Science and in addition it would encourage scholars to focus attention not only upon the logical structure, historical development, and human significance of scientific theorizing, but also upon the scientific technology that underlies and results from it."1 The idea was that each year the Center would focus on a different topic. The Center also instituted a lecture series, with speakers from institutions such as Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, and other distinguished academic centers.

Starting in the academic year 1973-1974, the Department was given approval to institute an undergraduate degree program leading to the Bachelor of Arts in the History of Science.

The History of Science Department has had numerous speakers come to lecture at its colloquia on several diverse topics. Invited lecturers have come from such universities as University of Pennsylvania, University of Cambridge, The Queen's University of Belfast, L'institut d'histoire et de sociopolitique que des sciences de Universite de Montreal, and also from the Smithsonian Institution's United States National Museum. The colloquium is also used as a forum for the graduate students of the department to present their first major papers, as well as delivering criticisms of papers presented by invited lecturers.

In the spring of 1965, Hopkins sponsored the Atlantic Seminar in the History of Biology "for the purpose of ensuring a free and rapid exchange of ideas among students of the subject,"2 and in the spring of 1976, the Joint Atlantic Seminar in the History of the Physical Sciences was held to "promote discussion among graduate students, teachers, and other scholars in the eastern United States and Canada who are concerned with the history of post-Newtonian physics, chemistry, earth and planetary sciences, and other physical sciences."3

At times, the Department also has had specific lectureships, and frequently invited distinguished scholars to speak on sundry subjects. The lecturers were generally compensated with a small honorarium and expenses. In the fall of 1975, Martin Klein was invited to come to the University to give a series of lectures on the scientific work of J. Williard Gibbs.

In 1974, the Department proposed an exchange program with the Institut d'histoire et de sociopolitique des sciences, Universite de Montreal, the aim of which was to provide "instruction and research in the history, sociology, and politics of modern science at both the graduate and undergraduate levels."4 The program involved the exchange of one faculty member and two students for one semester from each university, and was originally slated to last three years, although it eventually continued beyond that. Professor Camille Limoges resigned his post here in order to become director of the Montreal institute, and he helped to organize the exchange program.

Over the years, the graduate program has remained relatively small and close-knit, reflecting the Department's desire to work closely with only a few promising scholars. The average enrollment hovers annually around twelve students.

The Department offers only a Ph.D. program, and a Master's may be awarded, but does not exist as a terminal degree. The focus of the Department tends to be on the physical sciences, and the members of the faculty are quite prolific, with several dozen articles to their credit.

The Department was also very active within the University, with members constantly (most notably, Harry Woolf) serving on various committees, such as the Committee on Allied Health Professions, the Committee on the Study of Education, the Peabody Library Committee, and a host of others. It also instituted a program in the Evening College, and on the occasion of the Hopkins Centennial, made an appeal to the Administration for the creation of a proper archives for "Hopkinsiana."


1 Series 2 (Academic Programs), Center for the History and Philosophy of Science--Correspondence regarding Funding, 1966-1975.
2 Series 2 (Academic Programs), Joint Atlantic Seminar in the History of the Physical Sciences, 1976.
3 Ibid.
4 Series 2 (Academic Programs), Montreal, University of: Grant Proposals and Application, January 1974, Carnegie, Danforth, Clark, Lilly, Singer, NSF.

Faculty, Department of History of Science:
(Asterisks indicate full professors)

*Woolf, Harry, Professor 1961, Chairman of the Department 1964-1972, Willis K. Shepard Professor of History of Science 1964-1976, University Provost 1972-1976
*Coleman, William R., Assistant Professor 1962, Associate Professor 1965, Professor 1973-1977, Chairman of the Department 1975-1977
Temkin, Owsei, MD, Professor at School of Medicine 1932, Professor of the History of Medicine 1964-1967
*Kargon, Robert H., Assistant Professor 1965, Associate Professor 1967, Professor 1972, Chairman of the Department 1972-1975, 1982- , Willis K. Shepard Professor of History of Science 1982-
Spencer, J. Brookes, Visiting Assistant Professor 1965-1966
*Hannaway, Owen, Assistant Professor 1967, Associate Professor 1974, Professor 1977, Chairman of the Department 1978-1982
Limoges, Camille, Associate Professor 1971-1972
McCormmach, Russell, Assistant Professor 1972-1983
Niebyl, Peter, MD, Assistant Professor 1973-1976, Joint Appointment with Institute of History of Medicine
Haraway, Donna, Assistant Professor 1974-1979
Bylebyl, Jerome, Assistant Professor 1976, Associate Professor 1981, Joint Appointment with the School of Medicine Albany, W.R., Visiting Associate Professor 1980
Kingsland, Sharon, Assistant Professor 1981
Leslie, Stuart, Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow 1981, Assistant Professor 1984
*Judson, Horace Freeland, Professor 1982, Henry R. Luce Professor of Science and Writing, Joint Appointment with The Writing Seminars
Brieger, Gert, Joint Appointment with the Medical School 1984, Professor
Smith, Dr. Robert, Joint Appointment with Space Telescope History Project 1985


1.52 Cubic Feet (4 letter size document boxes)

1 Website(s)

Language of Materials



These records were transferred by Anne Carey, Administrative Assistant, and Robert Kargon, Chairman, History of Science Department.

Accession Number


Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Julia B. Morgan and Laurah Limbrick.

Records of the Department of History of Science 1960-198204.240
Julia B. Morgan and Laurah Limbrick
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA