Course description

Terms: Autumn and Spring
Duration: 21 hours (11 lectures, 10 seminars)

The aim of this module is to provide an introduction to the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, through an overview of the fields of chemistry, biology and medicine from the late 18th century to the present day. Facts and artefacts generally presented as “discoveries that have revolutionized science” will be introduced and analysed following the historian John Pickstone’s frame  work of “ways of knowing”, through the study of French academic publications as well as archive material. Insofar as scientific facts and discoveries are contingent upon history, the conditions in which scientific forerunners worked will be studied to understand their relevance in light of their intellectual context. An understanding of various historical contexts will in turn allow for useful and relevant comparisons to be made with contemporary science. Special consideration will be given, in term 2, to the theoretical and revolutionary changes, the emergence of new paradigms and the position scientists adopt in controversies. The latter will provide suitable material for the oral presentation. By the end of the module, you will have acquired a clear understanding and knowledge of the various events, processes and ideas that have governed French scientific research and culture and will be able to have a reflexive view on your own practice as scientists embedded in their culture and society. The module provides one 1-hour lecture/ seminar per week and requires a minimum of 1-hour private study per week. Assessment will consist of an in-class test in the first term (25%), a4,000-word project (50%) anda 30-minute viva (25%) in the second term.You will be provided with a variety of up-to-date written and audio-visual documentation in French. In addition, there will be a list of recommended reading material.


  • In-class writing task 25%
  • 4,000-word project 50%
  • 30-min. viva25%


Term 1

De «L’histoire naturelle» à l’âge de «l’analyse»:

1.Du Malade aux maladies: «Les origines de l’hôpital».
2.Précurseurs, inventeurs, découvertes et techniques qui ont fondé et contribué auxprogrès de la médecine moderne: Ambroise Paré, P. Bernard Parmentier, etc.
3.La controverse scientifique. Contexte, le rôle des médias, étude de controverses (enmédecine, en administration des soins et des médicaments) passées et actuelles.
4. Histoire de la pharmacie, médicaments et soins, vaccins. Médicaments et santépublique. Industrialisation et mise sur le marché des medicaments.

Term 2

Héritage scientifique, médecine moderne, l’accès aux soins:

1.Pasteur et la «révolution pastorienne».
2.La découverte du radium et de la radioactivité: le laboratoire Curie entre science etindustrie.
3.‘Inventer la biomédecine’: La transformation des activités biologiques et médicalesdans la seconde moitié du 20èmesiècle.
4.Les nouveaux acteurs de la biomédecineau 21èmesiècle.


In addition to the references cited below, a number of sources such as links to articles by science writers to be found in scientific magazines and various other media will be distributed at the start of term 1.

Bensaude-Vincent, Bernadette, Isabelle Stengers, Histoire de la Chimie, La Découverte,Poche, Coll. Sciences Humaines et Sociales, 2001.
Berche, Patrick et Yvan Brohard, Une Histoire de lamédecine. Le souffle d’Hippocrate,Université Paris Descartes, 2011.
Boudia, Soraya, Marie Curie et son laboratoire, Science et industrie de la radioactivité enFrance, Edition des Archives Contemporaines, 2001.
Corsi, Pietro, Jean Gayon, Gabriel Gohau, Stéphane Tirard, Lamark, Philosophe de laNature, Presses Universitaires de France, Coll. Science, Histoire et Société, 2006.
Foucault, Michel, Naissance de la Clinique, Presses Universitaires de France, Coll. Quadrige,2003 (1963).
Gaudillière, Jean-Paul, Inventer la Biomédecine: La France, l’Amérique et la production dessavoirs du vivant (1945-1965), La Découverte, Coll. Textes à l’Appui / Histoire des Sciences, 2002.
Latour, Bruno, Pasteur: Guerre et Paix des Microbes, La Découverte Poche, Coll. SciencesHumaines et Sociales, 2001 (1984).
Pestre, Dominique, Science, Argent et Politique, un essai d’interprétation, INRA Editions,Coll. Sciences en Question, 2003.
Pickstone, John, Ways of Knowing. A new History of Science, Technology and Medicine,The University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Torny,  Didier  et  Francis  Chateaurayneau, Les  Sombres  Précurseurs,  une  sociologiepragmatique de l’alerte et du risque, Editions de l’EHESS, 1999.