Max Planck Institutes and Experts

There is no such thing as "the" Max Planck Institute. In fact, the Max Planck Society operates a number of research institutions in Germany as well as abroad. These Max Planck Institutes are independent and autonomous in the selection and conduct of their research pursuits. To this end, they have their own, internally managed budgets, which can be supplemented by third party project funds. The quality of the research carried out at the institutes must meet the Max Planck Society's excellence criteria. To ensure that this is the case, the institutes' research activities undergo regular quality reviews.

The Max Planck Institutes carry out basic research in the life sciences, natural sciences and the social and human sciences. It is thus almost impossible to allocate an individual institute to one single research field: conversely, it can be the case that different Max Planck Institutes carry out research in the same subject.
  • Mining was one of the most important driving forces behind economic and technological dynamics in early modern Europe. This research project, hosted at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science offers a new perspective of the early modern mining industry as a sociomaterial phenomenon in its own right. more
  • One of the main difficulties of communicating the urgency of a reduction in worldwide carbon emissions lies in the mediated way in which people and governments experience the dangers of a changing climate. We perceive the temperature and humidity of our immediate surroundings at a particular moment, but we lack any direct experience of the global environment. The working group Experiencing the Global Environment at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science strives to examine the history of this perceptual gap. more
  • The Max Planck Research Group “Epistemes of Modern Acoustics” initiates a consideration of sound in its dual function as an object of scientific investigation and as an epistemic tool. Acoustic strategies of knowledge production are another of the research group’s interests: What historical knowledge could be acquired or represented only acoustically? When and how were acoustic apparatuses, instruments, and machines deployed as alternative means of research? more
  • Knowledge in the Anthropocene

    2015 Max Planck Institute for the History of Science Renn, Jürgen; Omodeo, Pietro D.; Rosol, Christoph; Schemmel, Matthias; Valleriani, Matteo
    An approach to a long-term history of human knowledge is outlined that takes into account the cognitive, social and material dimensions of this development in their mutual interaction. It may thereby contribute to a reflective potential that is useful for consciously shaping the Anthropocene. more
  • Yellow strips on sketches, models and artefacts bespeak of the Qing empire’s interest in material production. Around 1700, court officials systematically employed these predecessors of modern post-its notes to communicate the design of artefacts of all kinds. The technical and aesthetic documents became the empirical basis upon which Chinese scholar-officials, sophisticating managerial methods, debated the validity of standards and procedures. Alongside ideals and realization, the materiality of planning unfolds how knowledge and action were negotiated to make things work. more
  • As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the development of infants garnered unprecedented scholarly enthusiasm, with men of science discovering in their own offspring, to borrow Charles Darwin’s phrase, “objects of natural history.” In the USA, college-educated women emerged as key interpreters of infants’ mental faculties. Exploring the at-home observations of Milicent Shinn, a University of California, Berkeley graduate, reveals how she and her female network of observers performed fieldwork in the nursery, producing groundbreaking work on the evolving of the human mind. more
  • A newly established Max Planck Research Group is writing an epistemic history of art that focuses on the circulation of knowledge within and beyond the artist’s workshop. Between 1350 and 1750, the artist’s workshop evolved from a centre of craft practices to a place where other than artisanal bodies of knowledge (such as optics and alchemy) were exchanged. This research project highlights the role of art in the emergence of the new science and enriches the terms in which the current debate on artistic research is conducted. more
  • Globalization processes have been ongoing for millennia and involve knowledge in significant ways. Globalization is not a linear progression, but a dynamic process that involves interplay between intrinsic and extrinsic factors, and is heavily influenced by local and regional contexts. The study of the spread of knowledge crosses disciplinary boundaries and requires a new theoretical language to describe it. more
  • A project at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science studies the history and contemporary forms of the “cerebral subject“ – an anthropological figure according to which the brain is the only part of the body we need in order to be ourselves. Rooted in philosophical and scientific developments of the late 17th century, the cerebral subject has become since the mid-20th century a major form of thinking and practicing personhood in industrialized and highly medicalized societies. more
  • Technological invention and innovation are primarily the result of practical process. In China, they usually take place at the level of the illiterate craftsman and are principally conveyed through personal contacts. Their documentation demonstrates fundamental modifications in the way that culture handles knowledge. A study at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science focuses on developments between the 10th and 18th century in fields such as porcelain manufacture, textile manufacture, and military technology. more
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