All research activities are part of the research programmes of the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities.

Ongoing research projects include:


The history of science focuses on the development of scientific thought and practice in times past, including the relations between science and cultural, social or institutional features at particular times and places. The focus is mostly on the early modern and modern periods (17th-20th century).

Current research includes research on the history and philosophy of modern physics, in particular of the 19th and 20th centuries. We are interested in the science and life of Albert Einstein and his contemporaries, science in the Cold War context and the history of space-time theories.

Onoing or upcoming projects include:

Thinking classified: Structuring the world of ideas around 1800

Scientific Innovation in Livestock Breeding in the Netherlands, 1900-2000.

History of the Dutch health care system, 1880-1940

Human Nature: Medical and Philosophical Perspectives in the Work of Galen of Pergamum

The Imperative of Regulation: local and (trans-) national dynamics of drug regulatory regimes in the Netherlands since the Second World War 

The quantified self: a history (1850-present)



The philosophy of science studies questions concerning the nature of scientific knowledge and scientific methods. It also includes conceptual analysis of fundamental theories such as relativity theory, quantum mechanics, evolution and modern genetics. 

The main themes of research are the foundations and the interpretation of quantum theory (including quantum information theory and quantum measurement theory), the foundations of statistical mechanics (comprising the analysis of the concept of probability, and with special attention to the concept of entropy), and the philosophy of space and time.

Digital Humanities

The Division of History and Philosophy of Science at the Freudenthal Institute runs two major NWO research projects within the field of digital humanities, both focussing on the use of big data for historical research.

Translantis uses digital technologies to analyse the role of reference cultures in debates about social issues, science and technology, and collective identities. Time Capsule aims to develop a semantic interoperable ontology that aggregates different but contextually related digital cultural heritage items in an easily accessible way in order to facilitate innovative forms of data extraction and manipulation that serve research into the history of pharmacy.

In addition, the Division runs two NWO KIEM-projects in order to set up interdisciplinary consortia to valorise research in the history of science. The first project focuses on serious games with a historical narrative to enhance science education, the other project envisions to develop a tool to make big data usable for law enforcement and NGOs in their fight against illicit trade in drugs, humans, and wildlife.