Timeline – 1940 – History of Science – First Formal Step

"Keeping Up With Science," silkscreen print on poster board, ca. 1936-1939. WPA Posters, Library of Congress.
“Keeping Up With Science,” silkscreen print on poster board, ca. 1936-1939.

In March 1940, the UW’s Curriculum Committee, chaired by chemist Farrington Daniels, proposed—and the faculty approved—three new interdisciplinary courses “aim[ed] at introducing students to some broad aspect of the modern world.” The course designated for sophomores was the “History and Significance of Science.”

A young historian of science, Henry Guerlac, was recruited from Harvard to launch the course as well as a new department. The initiative languished, however, as the U.S. entered World War II. History of Science first appeared in the UW Course Catalog as a separate major in 1942-1944, but Guerlac left in 1943 to take a position as historian at a federally-funded laboratory.

Sources: Victor L. Hilts, “History of Science at the University of Wisconsin,” Isis 75 (March 1984): 68-72 (quotation, 69); UW Course Catalog, 1942-1944 (pdf), 146.