History of Science Research Guide

Welcome to the History of Science and Technology Research Guide. This is a comprehensive list of freely-available resources for students and researchers to learn more about the many fields within the discipline and some of its major personalities. Please feel free to contact us at dibnerlibrary@si.edu with suggestions for additional resources or with questions.  See links to specific guide categories below:

Top Resources of Science and Technology

  • SIRIS: The Smithsonian Libraries catalog, offering in-depth catalog records on the most important books in the history of science. Some suggested subject headings include:   Mathematics -- Early works to 1800; Astronomy -- Early works to 1800; Military art and science; Science -- Early works to 1800.
  • Smithsonian Institution Collection Search Center: The Collection Search Center allows users to freely search over ten million records, including two million online media files, for books and objects related to the history of science and technology.
  • Heralds of Science Book Collection: The Heralds of Science as identified by Bern Dibner are being digitized and added to this online collection courtesy of Smithsonian Libraries. 
  • Math and Science Collection: The National Museum of American History has a useful page with searchable publicly accessible records for their math and science related objects.
  • Consortium Special Collections Search Hub: A combined catalog database of relevant records from the 23 member institutions of the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine.
  • Epact: Scientific Instruments of Medieval and Renaissance Europe: Epact is an electronic catalogue of medieval and Renaissance scientific instruments from four European museums: the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Sceinza, Florence, the British Museum, London, and the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden. Together, these museums house the finest collections of early scientific instruments in the world. 
  • The Nobel Museum: The Nobel Museum "aims to provide easy access to information about the scientific and literary achievements as well as peace efforts recognized by the Nobel Prize, and to stimulate interest of students in the Prize areas."

General Resources

  • A Selection of Web and Other Internet Sources for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine: Produced by Tom Settle, a historian of science, this page is a nice collection of links to history of science, technology, and medicine websites, especially those pertaining to the interests of the Institute and Museum of History of Science in Florence, Italy. 
  • World History of Science Online: Established in 2003, the World History of Science Online is a free resource for scholars worldwide. It is meant to give scholars basic information about current activities in the field of history of science and technology.
  • ECHO Science & Technology Virtual Center: "ECHO's research center catalogues, annotates, and reviews sites on the history of science, technology, and industry. Together these 5,000 sites make up a significant portion of what we call the History of Science web."
  • History of Astronomy and Science Resources: A German site, in English, with links to resources in the history of astronomy as well as archaeo-astronomy and history of space science. 
  • Library of Congress Science Reference Services: Selected internet resources on the many disciplines within science and technology, including both modern and historical topics.
  • H-Sci-Med-Tech: "A network for scholars who apply humanities and social science methods to study science, medicine, or technology across a wide variety of periods and regions of the world." With an active discussion board and postings of the latest publications, this is a unique resource for those interested in engaging in an active scholarly community.  
  • Directory of History of Medicine Collections: Compiled by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, this resources is an excellent starting point for those interested in discovering national and international collections relating to the history of medicine. 

Selected Scientists and Engineers

  • Athanasius Kircher at Stanford: Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), the Jesuit polymath, was "widely regarded as the physical embodiment of all the learning of his age." He wrote over thirty separate works dealing with subjects ranging from optics to music, from Egyptology to magnetism. This Stanford site includes links to the Athanasius Kircher Correspondence Project and to a digital edition of the “Great Art of Knowing: The Baroque Encyclopedia of Athanasius Kircher.”
  • The Newton Project: This site intends "to make available online transcripts of all of Newton's writings, including notes and marginalia, along with scholarly editorial apparatus and translations of non-English text." This site is maintained at Imperial College, London. 
  • Einstein Archives Online: This cooperative project between the California Institute of Technology and Hebrew University is an excellent resource for finding primary source material related to the work and life of Albert Einstein.
  • Darwin Manuscripts Project: This site offers digital access to the primary evidence of the birth and maturation of Darwin’s attempts to explore and explain the natural world. The University of Cambridge hosts the Darwin Correspondence Project, a second project relating solely to his letters.
  • The Galileo Project: This site, produced at Rice University, is essential for information about Galileo and science during his lifetime, 1564-1642. 
  • Robert Boyle: This website features news in Boyle studies and has Boyle manuscripts digitized and freely available. It also has resources for researchers and teachers.

History of Astronomy

  • A History of the International Date Line: A site at the University of Utrecht with a great deal of information about all aspects of what is now known as the International Date Line. 
  • Johannes Kepler: His Life, His Laws and Times: A page maintained by NASA in support of its Kepler Mission to search for Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars. 
  • The Starry Messenger: The Starry messenger is Phase I of the Electronic History of Astronomy developed in the Whipple Museum of the History of Science and the Department of History Philosophy of Science. The aim of this project is to make available electronically some aspects of the early history of astronomy for the use of students studying the History and Philosophy of Science in the University. 
  • Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy: This is a publicly accessible database, discussion forum, and document-repository on astronomical heritage sites throughout the world, serving UNESCO’s Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative.
  • Cosmic Journeys: A History of Scientific Cosmology: An online exhibit from the American Institute of Physics, this serves as a great starting point for learning how humanity’s understanding of the skies have changed over the millennia.
  • History of Astronomy Online Resources: An extensive list compiled by the American Astronomical Society's Historical Astronomy Division.

History of Mathematics

  • Biographies of Women Mathematicians: This website is part of an ongoing project at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia. Here you can find biographical essays and comments on the women mathematicians profiled on the site, as well as additional resources on women in mathematics.
  • Topics in the History of Math: Compiled by the Math Forum, this lists of topics links to websites on such diverse topics as “Earliest uses of various mathematical symbols” and “Famous problems in the history of mathematics.”
  • MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive: An excellent resource in the history of mathematics from the University of St Andrews with biographies, histories, chronologies, and more.  
  • The Turing Digital Archive: This archive contains many of Turing's letters, talks, photographs, and unpublished papers, as well as memoirs and obituaries written about him. It contains images of the original documents that are held in the Turing collection at King's College, Cambridge.
  • List of Archival Collections: Created by Mathematics on the Web, this list includes personal and corporate names with the physical locations of their archival collections.

History of Physics

  • PhysLink.com: A comprehensive list of links relevant to the study of the history of physics from PhysLink.com.
  • Niels Bohr Archive (NBA): The NBA in an independent institution overseen by the University of Copenhagen that holds extensive archival material documenting the life and work of Niels Bohr.
  • The Center for the History of Physics: The Center for History of Physics supports the efforts of the scholarly community to document, investigate, and understand the nature and origin of developments in modern physics and their impact on society.
  • History of Physics: From MIT, this website lists the many fields within physics and famous experiments within those fields.
  • A Walk Through Time – The Evolution of Time Measurement Through the Ages: This database is a descriptive look at the history of timekeeping from ancient to modern methods.

History of Chemistry

  • The Warburg Institute: Part of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, this site has links to sites devoted to the history of alchemy, digitized alchemical texts, and a database of about 4000 alchemical manuscripts.
  • The Chemical Heritage Foundation: CHF is a library, a center for scholars, and a museum and archives. “We preserve, study, and interpret the history of chemistry, chemical engineering, and the life sciences.” 
  • Database of Alchemical Manuscripts: This database lists approximately 4,000 manuscripts from over 100 libraries. It includes transcribed texts, images, articles, and study courses related to the history of alchemy.
  • History of Chemistry: A simple but useful database from Purdue University allowing free access to a Scientists and Experiments index.
  • The Art of Alchemy: An online exhibition by the Getty Research Group with digitized books relating to the art of alchemy, chemistry’s predecessor. The Getty Alchemy collection is also accessible online.

History of Technology and Engineering

  • Smithsonian Trade Literature Collection: An important primary source of American business, technology, marketing and trade. This collection contains over 460,000 catalogs, technical manuals, brochures, and more representing 36,000 companies.
  • The Archimedes Project: This project is a testbed for developing and exploring model interactive environments for the history of mechanics. It has digitized material publicly available from four different institutions across the world.
  • Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science allows you to sign up for email alerts relating to new articles in their history of engineering and technology subject collection.
  • IEEE REACH: A portal created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) that provides teachers and students with educational resources that explore the relationship between technology and engineering history and society, politics, economics and culture. 
  • The Institution of Engineering and Technology Archives: This is a unique collection of material promoting and preserving the history of science, engineering and technology. Search their catalog, subject guides, biographies, and online exhibitions.
  • Google Patent Search: Easily search digitized patents using Google’s patent search engine covering more than 15 million global patents applied for and granted since 1790.
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Oral Histories:  The personal memories of pioneers in the electrical, electronics, and computer fields, and the technologists who transformed the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. Made freely accessible in audio format by the IEEE. 

Smithsonian and other Libraries and Archives

  • Smithsonian Libraries Special Collections: The Smithsonian Libraries have special collections in ten branches across the institution ranging from the natural sciences to physical sciences, art and design.
  • The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology: The Dibner Library has significant rare book holdings in the history of science and technology, featuring the Heralds of Science collection created by Bern Dibner. With over 35,000 rare books and 2,000 manuscript groups in just the history of science and technology, the Dibner collection is one of the foremost collections in this field.
  • National Museum of American History (NMAH) Library: The NMAH Library collection covers all aspects of American social, cultural, political, and economic history. It also has materials related to advances in technology, machinery, and transportation as well as scientific and medical history. Of special note is the NMAH Library's extensive collection of trade literature, an important resource on the history of business, technology, and manufacturing. 
  • The National Museum of American History (NMAH) Archives Center: The NMAH Archives Center “collects, preserves, and provides access to archival documents that complement the museum's exhibition, research, and collecting programs. The Archives Center holds more than 1,400 collections documenting the history of technology, invention and innovation, business and consumer culture, American music, and popular culture as well as many other topics.”
  • Cornell University Kroch Library: History of Science Collections: Highlights of this 35,000 volume collection are major holdings on Lavoisier, Boyle, Newton, anatomy, embryology, herbals, and ornithology. 
  • Huntington Library Science and Technology Collections: The acquisition of the Burndy Library in 2006 helped make this independent research library near Pasadena, California, one of the world's foremost collections of rare books and manuscripts relating to the history of science and technology. 
  • Linda Hall Library: History of Science Collections: This Kansas City library has a fantastic collection of science books and produces a number of excellent online exhibitions on the history of science. 
  • Stanford University Libraries: History of Science Collections: Holdings in the history of science include several major book and manuscript collections. Books and manuscripts relating to Sir Isaac Newton total over 4,000 volumes. The collection of early modern science, consisting of over 5,000 volumes, includes works by scientists from Ptolemy to Einstein, and includes original editions of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Vesalius, Boyle, and Darwin. 
  • University of Oklahoma Bizzell Library: History of Science Collections: This 87,000 volume research library spans works from the 15th century to modern times. It strives to be as comprehensive as possible in the field of history of science. 
  • University of Wisconsin Memorial Library: History of Science Collections: An excellent collection of science books and manuscripts, particularly in chemistry. Robert Boyle, Joseph Priestly, Mesmerism, and ornithology are particularly well-represented. 

Museum and Research Centers

  • The American Institute of Physics: The American Institute of Physics website supports the mission of the Center for History of Physics to "preserve and make known the history of modern physics and allied sciences.” The site includes descriptions of the Center's archival collections and links to useful physics and science resources on the Internet. 
  • Historic American Engineering Record: National Park Service organization that documents American industrial, maritime, and engineering history. 
  • Museo Galileo: Located in Florence, Italy, The Museo Galileo is home to the only surviving instruments designed and built by Galileo himself. Available online are images, biographical data and contextual information for over 1,000 objects. For the more complex objects, simulation animations and/or videos are also made freely available online.
  • Science Museum Group: UK institution which is actually three separate museums: the Science Museum in London, The National Railway Museum in York, and the National Museum of Photography, Film, and Television in Bradford. 
  • The Chemical Heritage Foundation: The Chemical Heritage Foundation is an active participant in collecting, preserving, and investigating the history of science.

Professional Organizations