The Boston University Center for Philosophy and History of Science is one of 17 independent academic units of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

The center was initiated by the series of colloquia established in 1960 by Professors Marx Wartofsky and Robert S. Cohen, with colleagues from other institutions of Greater Boston. They conceived a forum of scholarly exchange in the broadest framework of interdisciplinary and international concerns. In 2010, Professor Alisa Bokulich was appointed director, succeeding Professor Alfred I. Tauber, who had been director since 1993 and who assumed the role of director emeritus, along with Professor Cohen.

The center’s mission is to examine the historical, philosophical, and social factors that govern the theory and practice of science. By regarding all sciences, from astronomy to zoology, as influenced by their cultural environment, historical development, linguistic convention, psychodynamic interrelations, logical systems, and epistemological and metaphysical foundations (to name only the most obvious), our scholarship is dedicated to demonstrating the complex intellectual and social infrastructure of science. In so doing, the center encourages the pursuit of both traditional and novel approaches to science as a form of general knowledge. Subject to investigation of how science progresses, what are its criteria of truth, and what we learn in the broadest sense from the scientific enterprise, modern science becomes the subject of critical examination. Such study secures our understanding of what increasingly has come to define our knowledge of the world.

Center Activities

The center is best known for its sponsorship of the Boston Colloquium for Philosophy of Science, which began as an informal interuniversity collaboration of scholars in philosophy, the natural and social sciences, psychology, religious studies, and the arts. This lecture series has become a premier forum for national and international dialogue concerning all aspects of the philosophy and history of the sciences, mathematics, and logic. Each year, the center hosts an eclectic program of symposia and lectures that is world-renowned for its diversity and originality.

The center also sponsors visiting professors, scholars, and research fellows who conduct investigations in the rich intellectual milieu of Boston’s notable universities. These scholars have come from some 35 countries, and they spend up to two years at Boston University.

The center promotes an active publication program. The annual colloquia offer a forum for discussion of work in progress and of research ready to be published, either as portions of longer books or individual articles in scholarly journals. Under the editorship of Robert Cohen, the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science (published by Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht) produced more than 200 volumes in the areas of philosophy of the natural and social sciences, logic, mathematics, and the history and social relations of science. These studies include critical examination of current scientific theory and practice, and a wide range of scholarship focused on particular national traditions (e.g., of China, Poland, Greece), historical periods and persons (e.g., Goethe, Spinoza, Hegel, Bohr, Mach), and critical Festschriften for notable scholars or scientists. (The series is now edited by J├╝rgen Renn, Berlin, and Kostas Gavroglu, Athens.)

The Center for Philosophy and History of Science is closely linked to the Center for Einstein Studies, also based at Boston University and directed by John Stachel. Boston University’s Mugar Library holds a complete copy of physicist Albert Einstein’s papers.

The Robert S. Cohen Archives

To consult the Robert S. Cohen Archives, which contains correspondence, unpublished and published manuscripts and typescripts, reprints, journal issues, news clippings, photographic prints, sound recordings, memos and notebooks, please contact the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.

Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center
Boston University

771 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

Phone: 617-353-3696
Fax: 617-353-2838
Email: archives@bu.edu