The name history of science refl ects a set of assumptions about what science is. Among them is the claim that science is a singular thing, a potentially unifi ed group of disciplines that share a common identity. Long promoted by scientists and philosophers on the basis of a supposedly universal scientifi c method, this claim now looks very embattled. I trace its development from the early nineteenth century and the growth of the positivist movement to its various manifestations in the twentieth century. Recently, some historians have called for the term science to be relinquished, and for adoption of a more relaxed pluralism. Yet the complex legacy of the notion of singular science cannot be so easily abandoned.