Obsolete Academic Disciplines

My google-fu is weak today. There seems to be a concept of “obsolete academic disciplines”, but I can’t really find a list of them.

Are there a fair number of academic disciplines that are considered obsolete or defunct in the sense that, while they were considered legitimate academic disciplines in the past, they are not considered so today? I’m not talking about disciplines such as Journalism that clearly still exist and can be majored in, and where practical job prospects still exist but are dwindling, but fields that you practically can’t study anymore at school because nobody teaches it. For example, could you get a BS in Animal Magnetism with a minor in Phrenology from Harvard in 1780, or could you take Alchemy 305 at Oxford in 1530 and get academic credit for studying occultic theories on transmutation?

The question is not limited to hard sciences, but I’m looking at fields that were considered legitimate academic disciplines, not job training programs.

Also, I’m not truly asking about fields that still exist, but whose degree structure has been changed. For example, I understand that it was once possible in many areas to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine that qualified one to be a doctor, but this degree is obsolete in many or most areas and the program has been restructured as a post-baccalaureate doctoral program, but the field of medicine still exists. I’ll accept answers in this vein as long as they don’t overwhelm the thread and are reasonably interesting.

You might have some luck with this list of Superseded Scientific Theories from Wikipedia.

Don’t know if it’s exactly what you mean, but I bet at least some of them existed for long enough (and were recent enough) that classes or official courses/degrees were given in them.

Wikipedia has a list of academic disciplines and a list of fields of doctoral studies in the United States. Neither directly addresses the question, but they seem vaguely relevant.

Edit: How about regional science? It’s not completely gone, but it’s much smaller than it used to be.

This may be a difficult question to answer. Academia has changed rather significantly during the last 150 years. For one thing, the entire concept of an academic major was introduced at Harvard in 1910. I doubt whether a course catalog similar to the ones used today were even in existence prior to the 20th century, but I could be mistaken. In fact, I would love to know what attending college was actually like back in the 19th century. Were there courses like ‘Alchemy 101’ or ‘Ætheric Studies 205’?

ETA: Of course, I know that Alchemy was superannuated by the 19th century. I was being fanciful. Yeah… that’s it… fanciful.

Theories are not disciplines.

As njtt suggests, there’s a question here of whether we’re talking about disciplines, or about particular theories and practices that might be part of particular disciplines.

If you’re talking about disciplines as professionally-demarcated areas of study, you probably won’t find too many obsolete ones. You might find some sub-disciplines that have become obsolete over time, but the most likely reason for this is that changing understandings of different fields of inquiry have led to realignments within disciplines. For the most part, the story of academia since the late nineteenth century has been one of increased specialization, and the emergence of new disciplines.

I’ll put the following in quotation marks, because it is, for the most part, culled from my notes and from a lecture that i give in some of my history classes. The focus is mainly on the humanities and social sciences, not on the STEM disciplines, although many of those were subject to the changes described below.

Much of what is said on that page is confused, misleadingly expressed, or downright wrong.

And the OP was asking about degrees from Oxford given in 1530, when the idea of getting a specific “degree” in a particular subject area that qualified one in some way to do something didn’t even exist in academia.

Obviously the OP isn’t going to be getting any overarching reliable answers about fields of study given that the way the question is presented leads only to an answer of “no, because they didn’t do things like that back then” which, while accurate, may not be exactly the most helpful answer.

I didn’t know the specifics of when the education landscape changed to allow for specific degrees in specific subjects (**Gagundathar **handled that quite nicely) so I thought I’d offer some generalities that may be helpful. I am not a scientist, nor did I spend time perusing the page to see if the examples given were all totally accurate and relevant to the OP’s interest - I simply offered a resource which I thought might prove interesting to pursue.

Perhaps you could offer something more useful to the OP, since you haven’t done so yet?

I surmise that the fall of the Soviet Union left a lot of people with obsolete degrees in Marxist-Leninist Economic Theory (and so forth). No doubt you can still study Marxist-Leninist Etc in universities today, just not as an entryway into a career as an actual Marxist-Leninist Economist. At this point I should insert some examples. But my knowledge of political education in the Soviet Union is weak.

I used to joke about getting a degree in Alchemy by combining the trivium, the quadrivium and something like materials engineering :smiley: After all, Connecticut is home to Albertus Magnus University :dubious::smiley:

Well, I am sorry if I hurt your feelings, but it does not change the fact that the information on that page is (a) full of inaccuracies and misleading or dubious claims, and (b) not really relevant to the OP’s question, because it is concerned with theories rather than disciplines.

I think that pointing out that other people’s “answers” are irrelevant or wrong is actually a good deal more useful and constructive than posting replies that are irrelevant or wrong, like you did. At least I am not actively misleading anyone, but rather trying to prevent them from being misled.

I do not have any positive answer to give to the OP because, so far as I am aware, there are no clear examples of academic disciplines, as opposed to theories, that have become obsolete, although on some tendentious definitions of “discipline” one might be able to come up with one or two examples. Astrology might count if you define both “discipline” and “academic” very loosely, but, although it was certainly sometimes taught in universities, it was never really an academic discipline in its own right, and always flourished more outside academia than within it. I suppose it has pretty much been completely purged from academia today, but it still continues to be pursued outside, so it is not even even obsolete in that sense. Just because I, probably you, and the majority of academics think it is nonsense, does not mean that it has gone away.

As others have pointed out, the historical tendency has always been to add new disciplines (or subdivide established ones) rather than to eliminate them. Originally, there was only one academic discipline, philosophy, taught in the original Academy. It is still around. Some disciplines, such as theology, once flourished mightily, but are now much reduced, but theology too is still practiced in academia.

We had a thread on this a few months back. My contribution was Humanics.

This is that thread:

You’ll notice that the existence of humanics as ever being a thriving academic discipline has been disputed.

Geography seems to be waning as an academic discipline, but it isn’t dead yet.

I don’t really know that it would count as an academic discipline since much of the learning was done via apprenticeship, but at one point in time even as recently as the 19th century there were people trained in the practice of ecclesiastic law to handle matters in ecclesiastic courts. I don’t believe there are any still functioning ecclesiastic courts so I imagine this as a field of study (if it could ever have been called that) no longer really exists.

Less hurt feelings than simply a bit sarcastically amused that you felt it sufficient to tersely shoot down other responses without also contributing your own. If for instance the unquoted portion of your post (which is very useful information, and contributes to the thread much more than your other comments, IMO) had either preceded or accompanied your commentary about my own reply, I doubt I would have said anything in response. Fighting ignorance and all that - as I said, I knew it was tangential, but with the OP, there’s not much on the positive-answer side to offer, because the factual and quick answer is “Nope” which, while accurate, isn’t particularly illuminating. Your elaboration there is a much more complete (and to my eyes, useful) answer than simply refuting my mistake.

Your mistakes certainly needed to be refuted. Get off your high horse and stop telling me what I should or should not be contributing.

There used to be an academic discipline at universities in the German speaking world called Zeitungswissenschaft (literally: newspaper science). Although studying this science didn’t really provide any journalistic training, is was popular with aspiring journalists (print media and TV/radio alike).

As far as I can make out, the term has virtually disappeared.

The nearest academic subject one could study at an university these days would probably be communications.

It’s a message board dedicated to fighting ignorance. People tell people to offer info all the time here. It’s even a board meme.

Perhaps you could try reading my posts as a compliment to your more accurate information, since that’s what they actually were (albeit a bit snarky).

I do apologize for the snark. You were right, I was wrong. Thank you again for the specific information - it was interesting (to me at least) to learn.

Do we class alchemy as a ‘science’?