History and Social Aspects of Science

What is the origin of modern science? How has the role of science in society changed over the years? What responsibilities do scientists have? Has there always been a conflict between science and religion? How can one stimulate excellent research? Why should we trust scientific knowledge anyway? These are the questions that are addressed in the research and teaching of the Institute for History and Social Aspects of Science.


VU University emphasizes that its students should not only become good scientists; they should also reflect on the nature and origin of their subject. For that reason, bachelor students of the faculties of Science and Earth and Life Sciences should attend the courses of the Institute for History and Social Aspects of Science, as well as some courses of the Athena Institute and Philosophy. In these courses we look into the history of science, the changing role of science in society, and philosophical aspects of science.

Students can also join optional courses on Bachelor or Master level. Of course, you can also write a bachelor or master’s thesis with one of our staff members. More information can be found on the Education page.


Research at the institute addresses the history of the sciences as a part of society, especially the relation between science and culture in the 19th and 20th century. Current research projects are:

  • History of physics, geophysical sciences and meteorology (Van Lunteren, Achbari, Flipse, Wegener)
  • The relation between science and religion in the modern age (Flipse, Van Lunteren, De Pater) 
  • History of mathematics, mathematical education and statistics (Beckers, Stamhuis, Rekers) 
  • History of genetics (Stamhuis) 
  • The emergence of interantional networks of researchers in the 19th century (Achbari) 
  • History of astronomy (Baneke, Zuidervaart) 
  • History of paleontology and natural history museums (Nieuwland) 
  • History of women in science (Stamhuis) 
  • Newtonianism in the Netherlands (De Pater)

More information on current research can be found on the webpages of staff members and in the annual reports.


The Institute for History and Social Aspects of Science is officially part of the department of Physics and Astronomy, but in practice it is an independent research institute.