History of the Institute

The Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST) was established in 1967 with the explicit goal of creating one of the world’s leading centers of its kind.  Its formation reflected long-standing interests at the University in the humanistic study of science and technology. U of T faculty had furnished founding members of the History of Science Society in 1924, and one of its subsequent presidents.  In the 1950s and early 1960s, the University’s leading scholars included historians and theorists of technology Harold Innis, Northrop Frye, and Marshall McLuhan. Drawing on widespread enthusiasm for nurturing a close and productive dialogue between the humanities, the sciences, and technology, a Presidential Advisory Committee on the History and Philosophy of Science recommended the creation of a graduate unit that would eventually transform undergraduate studies in the field. The University Senate created the IHPST in October 1967 as a graduate-only unit within the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) dedicated to “the philosophical as well as the historical aspects” of science and of technology.  Over its half-century, IHPST’s faculty have played transformative roles in shaping the discipline. Today’s IHPST is more committed than ever to carrying out world-class historical and philosophical research and pedagogy that shapes humanistic studies of science, technology, and medicine. It adds to that founding interdisciplinary mission a commitment to engage deeply with contemporary political and social issues, including in the areas of ethics and technology, identity-based social disparity, and the ongoing role of science and technology in generating and challenging global and regional disparities.

The IHPST initially occupied offices in the History Department at Harbord Street and Spadina Avenue – now the location of the Athletic Center. In 1968, the Institute moved to the second floor of 191 College Street, just south of the University’s historic and administrative core on Kings’ College Circle. Since 1982, it has been located on the third floor of Old Victoria College, on the scenic northeast corner of the downtown Toronto campus.

In 2001, IHPST moved from SGS to the Faculty of Arts and Science, St. George Campus. Its teaching still focused on graduate student training, but in 2010, it began reorienting its mission to play a significant role in the University’s undergraduate programs. IHPST currently offers Major and Minor programs in History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, and a Minor program in Science, Technology, and Society. At the graduate level, we offer MA and PhD programs in History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.