History of Science and Williams College:

          The Williams College History of Science Department has existed since academic year 1971-72, when Professor Donald deB. Beaver came to Williams to take part in the History of Ideas Program and to establish a curriculum in the history of science. 

          Before then, a number of individuals had offered courses in the history of science, most notably among them Professor of Mathematics Donald Richmond, who offered the first course in History of Science in 1936. By the 1970s, a relatively large number (20-30) of courses in what is now loosely labeled science and technology studies populated the Williams' curriculum.

          Professor Beaver designed the curriculum in history of science to complement existing major concentrations and programs, among them history, American studies, environmental studies, philosophy and sociology. No major in the history of science was envisioned, because the history of science is interdisciplinary, and for its study beyond an introductory level ideally requires some depth of knowledge in either science or history, knowledge not usually acquired until the junior and senior years. Occasionally, students create a contract major in the history of science, or a closely related subject, such as science studies or philosophy of science.

          The Department's singular position as staffed by one person resulted from a desire not to have history of science limited by its location in either departments of science or of history; fortunately Williams had a history of one-person departments, most notably in astronomy. For a time the department enjoyed two-person status, when from 1984-85 through 1993-94, Professor of Biology G. Lawrence Vankin joined the department, offering courses in the history of evolution, human evolution, and the biological revolution. Professors from other departments continue to offer courses in the history of science, or science and technology, for example, the History of Mathematics [Mathematics] the Social History of American Medicine [History], and the Philosophy of Science [Philosophy].


Donald deB. Beaver 
Professor of the History of Science


            Donald deB. Beaver has been at Williams since 1971-72, having previously taught history of science and general science at Franklin and Marshall College, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. He has a B.A. (1958) in physics from Harvard, and a Ph. D. (1966) from Yale.

            His primary research interests in the history of science lie in the social relations of science, although he has also been active in scientometrics. Currently, he is preparing a biography of Sarah Eglonton Bowdich (1791-1856; née Wallis, later Mrs. Robert Lee), an English naturalist, author, traveller, artist.

Contact Information:
   Professor Donald deB Beaver
   Bronfman Science Center, room 117
   18 Hoxsey Street
   Williamstown, MA 01267