History & Philosophy of Science Major

Distillatio, Jan van der Straet (1523-1605), late 16th cent. Image courtesy of: http://www.levity.com/alchemy/derstrae.html

What is HPS?

History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) studies the theories, methods, practices, and institutions of science from historical and philosophical perspectives. It strives to provide a genuinely interdisciplinary structure for critical reflection on science in all its aspects.

Declaring the HPS Major

Before declaring an HPS major, a student must complete the following coursework (all classes must be completed with a minimum grade of 2.00 or better):

  1. Completion of HSTCMP 311 and 312, PHIL 160 or 460, and PHIL 120.
  2. Completion of 10 credits toward the science (Natural World) requirement (see Major Requirements below).
  3. Minimum University GPA of 2.00.
  4. Completion of 10 credits of composition/writing. The requirement may be met by a freshman English composition course, a "W" course, or any course in which the student has written a graded paper of at least 10 pages (paper to be reviews by HPS faculty).

To declare the HPS major after completing this coursework, simply make an appointment with the department’s undergraduate adviser.

Not Currently a UW Student?

Learn more about applying to the University of Washington as an incoming first-year studenttransfer student, postbaccalaureate student, or returning student.

HPS Major Requirements

The HPS BA degree requires 25 credits of core courses, 25 credits of electives, 30 credits of Science coursework, and completion of the HPS capstone course. Specific requirements are listed below.

Core Courses

Completion of the following five courses with a minimum GPA of 2.50:

  1. HSTCMP 311 - Science in Civilization: Antiquity to 1600
  2. HSTCMP 312 - Science in Civilization: Science in Modern Society
  3. HSTRY 390 - Colloquium in History and Science
  4. PHIL 160 - Why Do We Believe in Quarks, Evolution, and 
    Other Crazy Things? Perspectives on Science, Reason, and Reality 
    PHIL 460 - Philosophy of Science
  5. PHIL 120 - Introduction to Logic


25 further credits, of which at least 10 must be PHIL and at least 5 must be HIST, from any of the following courses (or others upon petition).

  1. ESS 408.
  2. HSTCMP 211, 215, 310, 313 (also ASTR 313), 314, 315, 412, HSTAA 316.
  3. PHIL 243, 350, 360, 406, 450, 460 (if 160 has been taken), 464, 466, 473, 481, 482, 483.


Completion of HPS 400 - HPS colloquium

Science Requirement

Completion of 30 credits of Natural World courses with a minimum GPA of 2.50 in these courses. Courses must be from the following departments and at least 15 of the credits must be outside mathematics:

Anthropology Economics
Astronomy Environmental Studies
Atmospheric Sciences Mathematics
Biology Physics
Chemistry Psychology
Computer Science Sociology
Earth and Space Science


HPS Honors Track


The HPS honors track is available by application only.  Students who would like to be considered for HPS honors must apply at least one year prior to the anticipated graduation date. To be eligible to apply, a student must:

  • complete all HPS core courses
  • complete 20 credits toward the science requirement
  • maintain a 3.30 overall GPA for all HPS courses counting toward requirements (or receive special permission)

To apply, a student must submit to the undergraduate advisor (Gina Gould) a short one-page letter requesting admission to the honors track.

Graduation Requirements

  • 3.30 cumulative overall GPA
  • 3.30 overall GPA for all HPS courses counting toward requirements
  • 35 credits of Natural World courses, to include at least 20 credits above the 100 level in one Natural World department
  • One honors contract with an HPS faculty member, for independent work in connection with an HPS elective.  (This independent work will typically be a short thesis.)