School of Social and Political Science

Historical approaches to science, technology and medicine


Questions in contemporary social sciences, natural sciences and medicine

Historical research in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS) is driven by our interdisciplinary and politically engaged interest in the sociotechnical construction of modernity. We combine humanistic theories with qualitative and quantitative methods from across the social sciences to investigate the histories of the human, social and natural sciences, technology, and medicine. We are ideally located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, a neighbourhood rich in the history of science, medicine and technology.

Our research subjects, conversations, collaborations, and student audiences reach across the University, especially with the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Our partnerships with science and medicine practitioners and organisations keep the lessons of history alive in present-day research. Regionally, we are pilot contributors to the Scotland’s Historians of Science and North British History of Science Symposium networks. We engage city residents and visitors to Edinburgh through our strong links with National Museums Scotland and through public events, such as the Edinburgh Science Festival. One of our flagship projects is the Curious Edinburgh website, phone app, and walking tours. Curious Edinburgh enables the public to engage with the rich situated history of science, technology, and medicine in Edinburgh. The project won the prestigious Tam Dalyell prize for Public Engagement in 2018.

As a diverse and dynamic group, we bring historical perspective to many University initiatives, such as the design of the Edinburgh Futures Institute, and extend our insights to current events through exposition and commentary for public audiences.

Studying historical topics in STIS means taking a broad and socially driven view of the connections between past and present science, technology, and medicine. Our historically oriented studies of scientific collaboration and discovery include research into mathematics, epidemiology, genomics, natural sciences, museum collections and the Francis Crick Institute.

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