Will the "History of Science and Mathematics" include the history of "soft" sciences such as psychology, anthropology, sociology, and economics?

Example questions:

"I have heard it reputed that Carl Rogers was the first psychotherapist to record psychotherapy sessions for research and training purposes, and this was enormously controversial. Can anyone substantiate this? Are there any good secondary sources which discuss this controversy in detail?"

"The concept of "social deviance" was (is?) a crucial one in sociology. What is the origin of that concept? Did it come out of one of the important early 20th century psychiatric traditions (e.g. Freudian psychoanalytic theory, Adlerian adjustment theory, etc)?"

"Sol Tax reputedly developed his 'Action Anthropology' in response to the weaponized use of anthropology by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs. What do we know about who was supplying that anthropological consultation or information to the US BIA?"

Proposal: History of Science And Mathematics

  • 1
    For the scope as I understood it: no. Put differently I understood the scope for the history basically as what goes as STEM and/or MINT. But this is not meant as a definite statement just a communication what I believe was the intent. (I would consider certain pars of psychology as part of this though and thus on-topic.)
    – quid
    May 18, 2014 at 22:07
  • The trouble here is a ship of Theseus situation. History of art clearly should not be on-topic. History of physics clearly should be on-topic. They're both of the form "history of [area of study]", so where's the line?
    – Jack M
    Jun 1, 2014 at 16:17
  • @JackM (1) I thought "ship of Theseus" referred not to indistinct boundaries but the distinction of the whole from constituent members; (2) You seem to be conceiving of all disciplines of study as falling along a continuum, and I'm not sure I buy that; (3) you were saying? (4) if we buy the idea of a continuum, then borders are arbitrary and the community can plant them wherever they think best. Hence the question. Jun 2, 2014 at 4:26
  • They are on a continuum. From more obviously on topic to less obviously on topic. The fact that there may be underlying objective boundaries doesn't change how obvious they are.
    – Jack M
    Jun 2, 2014 at 6:56

2 Answers 2


Gee, taxonomy is the real devil.

Of your list of included sciences, I would say that Material Science and Architectural Mechanics are branches of Engineering, and Pharmacology is a branch of medicine. But of course the line between pure and applied science is always somewhat fuzzy.

On the other hand, a great deal of economics is highly mathematical, easily comparable to physics, and there's certainly also a big empirical component. Unfortunately, the bond between theory and practice is orders-of-magnitude less effective than in physics.

All that said, I'd be much more likely to click thru to a question on Claude Shannon's work in electrical engineering, than to a question on Adler's work on adjustment.


I wish you had asked this in the previous stage so we could get some example questions for votes. I assumed that the focus was only on the hardcore sciences, maths, and engineering. As is the social sciences have a reputation for not being real sciences but, however dismissive I'd like to be, they as much a science as exists for those topics. Our description right now says "scientists" and "any relevant disciplines" so it currently includes these topics though we as a group likely have little knowledge about them. It does not differentiate between chemists, psychologists, or even engineers (though I assumed that the latter was implicitly included).

If social sciences are included: questions must only focus on the history of the scientific principles or how they were used. Asking for a social scientific critique about a historical event/period/etc. is in no way on topic for this site. This is the history science (and math) NOT the science of history.

Your example questions according to this answer are, therefore, fine.

If you agree please acknowledge. If you disagree, please clarify/explain. We need to clarify the proposal description before we reach the beta stages if only hardcore sciences are included!

Please Note: All of the below can be considered social sciences and most I would not like to be included:

Psychology, Sociology, Economics, Political Science, Anthropology, Geography, Communication Studies, Criminology, Phrenology, Linguistics

I believe these are the topics I had assumed were relevant:

Physics, Math, Chemistry, Biology and sciences that are directly related: Ecology, Pharmacology, Geology, Astronomy, Material Science, Engineering, Architectural Mechanics (but likely not who commissioned this building), etc

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    @kaine I am having hard time understanding the separation. If it is about "scientific principles" why are Psychology, Sociology, Economics and Anthropology out? And "reputation for not being real sciences" doesn't sound very scientific. Maybe the underlying reason is to avoid controversies on topics related to humans, but then why is Geography out? Cartography for example played direct role in the development of some areas of mathematics. And what is "social scientific critique about a historical event" exactly?
    – Conifold
    Sep 11, 2014 at 2:00
  • Conifold Those lists are only of social sciences vs other sciences. They are not what I believe is relevant. I think with the current definition hopefully about to begin beta, all of the sciences (even Phrenology) are on topic.
    – kaine
    Oct 16, 2014 at 19:38

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