The Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science (CHSS) is an interdisciplinary graduate program dedicated to the study of the history, philosophy, and social relations of science. Read more…


March 29, 2017

The Nicholson Center for British Studies Lecture in Memory of Alison Winter

Tuesday, May 30th at 4:30pm

Please save the date for a lecture in memory of the life and work of our colleague and friend, Alison Winter, Professor of History, the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science and the college, and Director of the Nicholson Center for British Studies (2013-2016)


Simon Schaffer - Professor of History of Science (University of Cambridge)

"Time Machines and Memory Devices: Powers of Mind and Modern Histories."

Tuesday, May 30th at 4:30pm
Swift Hall, Third Floor Lecture Hall
Reception to follow

January 19, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017 to Saturday, April 22, 2017 - 
The Uses of Anomaly: a Workshop at the University of Chicago

Our workshop will investigate the potency of the anomaly as a conceptual category. We will focus on specific cases of anomalies presented by our speakers. Each speaker will select an instance of an anomaly from his or her field and present the anomaly briefly in its disciplinary context before opening the case to general discussion.

Our hope is that the variety of cases and disciplinary perspectives will provoke new reflections on a set of general questions. These include:

What do anomalies do? What kinds of questions do they provoke?

How do we justify the use of the anomaly as a conceptual category? How do these justifications differ in different fields? Conversely, what are the limitations of this concept? What reservations might we have about its usefulness

How is the anomaly distinct from its various historical synonyms: eg. exception, curiosity, monster? How might it do different work

What is it to explain an anomaly? What explanatory measures do anomalies demand

How might different fields—eg. history, literature, science—have different capacities for discovering, generating, sustaining anomalies?

For more information, please contact Lily Huang at

Co-Sponsored with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.


June 9, 2017 to June 11, 2017 - The Philosophy of Howard Stein, and Its Contemporary Interest

It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the publication of Howard Stein’s paper “Newtonian Space Time” in 1967 inaugurated the modern study of the foundations of physics. Thereafter, Stein’s work continued to set the standard in the philosophical community and beyond for the study of theories of spacetime structure (Newtonian and relativistic), the conceptual structure of quantum mechanics, the methodology of science in general and the character of scientific knowledge, and the history of physics and mathematics. This three-day conference will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stein’s landmark paper by providing an opportunity to reflect on Stein’s lasting influence for those working on a wide range of topics of vital interest to historians and philosophers of science. While speakers include Stein’s former colleagues, past students and friends, our focus is on his continuing influence on contemporary work, and we aim to demonstrate the relevance of Stein’s work for the next fifty years of our discipline.

Howard Stein is Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he spent most of his academic career (including his doctoral studies).

For more information, including a schedule of events and links to papers, please visit:

The conference organizing committee is composed of Erik Curiel (LMU Munich), Kevin Davey (Chicago), Thomas Pashby (Chicago), Karim Thébault (Bristol) and James Weatherall (UCI).

September 1, 2016

A memorial service for Alison Winter will be held on November 2nd, at 4:00 p.m., in Rockefeller Chapel on the University of Chicago Campus.

June 23, 2016

Our colleague Alison Winter, Professor of History, died last night.  Her connections to the University of Chicago ran deep.  In 1983, she came to the University as an undergraduate from Ann Arbor, where her father taught mathematics at the University of Michigan.  He hoped she would major in science; she wanted to major in English literature.  The compromise was history of science, but the compromise quickly became a passion.  She was determined to undertake further study in England, and moved there shortly after graduation, serving as a barmaid while writing fellowship applications.  She was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship, among others, to attend Cambridge University in history of science.  During graduate studies she met and married our colleague Adrian Johns, and both became fellows of St. John’s College.  Alison received her Ph.D. from Cambridge’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science in 1993.  She was hired the next year as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, and received tenure there a short four years later with the publication of Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain (Chicago, 1998). 

Alison returned to Chicago in 2001 where both she and Adrian were appointed associate professors in the Department of History and in the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science.   She was dedicated to supporting the next generation of scholars, producing several Ph.D. students and mentoring numerous post-doctoral fellows in the Clinical Medical Ethics program.  Her devotion to undergraduate teaching in history of medicine, in film, in gender studies, and in Victorian literature won praise from a large number of students, many of whom became lasting friends.  Both students and colleagues delighted in her genial and witty style, which she maintained even when engaged in pointed intellectual exchange.  Her research won her several prestigious fellowships, including a Guggenheim in 2002, and produced a second book, Memory:  Fragments of a Modern History (Chicago, 2012), winner of the Laing Prize from the University of Chicago Press.   

Alison’s glioblastoma was diagnosed shortly before Christmas.  Alison understood the nature of the disease from which she suffered, yet she remained in remarkable spirits, even compiling notes for a book on her experience that she hoped to write with the help of a former student.  During her ordeal, she had the support and love of her husband, their four young children, her parents, stepparents, and brother, along with the many colleagues and friends who visited during the period of her illness.  We share in the family's grief, and in Alison’s memory.


June 7, 2016

In September of 2016, the University of Chicago Press will be releasing a new book co-authored by Professor Robert J. Richards and Michael Ruse (Florida State), titled Debating Darwin.

Charles Darwin is easily the most famous scientist of the modern age, and his theory of evolution is constantly referenced in many contexts by scientists and nonscientists alike. And yet, despite how frequently his ideas are evoked, there remains a surprising amount we don’t know about the father of modern evolutionary thinking, his intellectual roots, and the science he produced. Debating Darwin seeks to change that, bringing together two leading Darwin scholars—Robert J. Richards and Michael Ruse—to engage in a spirited and insightful dialogue, offering their interpretations of Darwin and their critiques of each other’s thinking.

Please click here to view the book at the University of Chicago Press.

May 1, 2016

Yesterday, a graduate of the Committee (when it was CFS), Sean (Hsiang-lin) Lei, was awarded the William Welch Medal for his book Neither Donkey nor Horse.  The medal was awarded at the meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine.  The book is based on his doctoral dissertation.  It examines the way traditional Chinese medicine became a vehicle for modernization in China at the beginning of the twentieth century.  The book is published by University of Chicago Press.

Please click here to view the book at the University of Chicago Press.

For a full listing of upcoming CHSS events, including SOIT, the HHS workshops, and the HPS workshops, please click here.