Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin conducts research into how new categories of thinking, of proving and experiencing have developed during the centuries-long interaction between the sciences and the cultures in which they are embedded. To this end, comparative studies, which transcend eras and regions, investigate the historical circumstances under which scientific culture and science emerged as one culture. The individual research projects span several millennia; they relate to the cultures of the West and the East, the North and the South, and to a varied range of disciplines: for example, from Babylonian mathematics to today's genetics, or from the natural history of the Renaissance to the beginnings of quantum mechanics.


Boltzmannstr. 22
14195 Berlin
Phone: +49 30 22667-0
Fax: +49 30 22667-299

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS - Knowledge and Its Resources: Historical Reciprocities

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Knowledge Systems and Collective Life


Department Artefacts, Action and Knowledge


Department Ideals and Practices of Rationality


Department Experimental Systems and Spaces of Knowledge

Sediment core lying in the snow with metre stick next to it

Researchers announce major step towards defining a new geological epoch


With the live talk between Nobel Laureate Benjamin List and Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim, the 73rd Max Planck Society Meeting in Berlin draws to a close


A new exhibition reconstructs the library of the universal genius


The Academy recommends a shift towards sustainable forms of economy, more European and international cooperation, and a strengthening of services of general interest and common goods that will make our societies more resilient to future crises


How 17th century dreamers planned to reach the moon

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Democracies are thought to be the centers of groundbreaking research. However, the People’s Republic of China is upending the free world’s perception of itself. Despite its increasingly totalitarian structures, the country has joined the leading group of scientific nations. Under the direction of China researcher Anna Lisa Ahlers, a group from the Lise Meitner Program is attempting to determine how this is possible.

Humans have taken dominion over the Earth – and have done so to an extent that threatens the basis for human life itself. From the perspective of our author, the development of scientific and technical knowledge has played a key role in the transition to the Anthropocene, the geological epoch of humankind. But we still need to learn more about the close interrelationship between the Earth and humans to be able to actually understand and overcome the crises that we create through our own actions.

For centuries, their lives were under threat: Europeans considered bears, wolves and ibexes either as a threat, a food source or trophies, and hunted them to extinction. Wilko Graf von Hardenberg, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, studies the ways in which our relationship to iconic mammals has changed over the centuries.

The changing climate necessitates saying farewell to oil and coal. But our society, and especially our ideals of freedom and prosperity, are heavily dependent on the use of fossil fuels. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin are investigating just how strong this dependency is and how we can free ourselves from it.

Max Planck researchers cooperate with partners in around 120 countries all over the world. Here, they write about their personal experiences and impressions. Thomas Turnbull from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin is involved in the project “Mississippi. An Anthropocene River”. As part of this venture, Turnbull paddled down a stretch of the Mississippi. He talks about a river that epitomizes the changes that humans have made to natural systems.

La Convivencia is viewed as a golden age of tolerance – a period of peaceful coexistence between Muslims, Jews and Christians in medieval Spain. The myth surrounding this period persists to this day. Researchers at the Max Planck Institutes for Social Anthropology in Halle and for the History of Science in Berlin are studying the history of the Convivencia and considering its possible function as a model for today’s world.

Postdoctoral Scholars (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin May 24, 2024

Guest Residencies for Journalists (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin May 13, 2024

Director (m/f/d) at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin April 11, 2024

Process landscapes of petromodernity

2022 Steininger, Benjamin; Klose, Alexander

Cultural Studies

The products of the petrochemical industry, and especially catalytic processes, are central to the historical process of modernity and the Anthropocene. This project examines petromodernity through exemplary constellations—here, the Port of Rotterdam—as an epoch in which technological access to oil and gas has organic-biotic and economic-political, but also epistemic-cultural consequences. Our programmatic goal is to investigate the rationality of the epoch as “fossil reason” and subject it to a critique that takes account of its necessary replacement.


Validation in biomedical research

2021 Keuck, Lara

Cultural Studies

The reproducibility crisis in global biomedical research, the reliability of Covid-19 tests in different settings, the search for informative endpoints in clinical studies: many current challenges in medical research recur to similarly universal questions of validation. At the same time, technical and methodological developments and changing frameworks have influenced how precisely the validity and significance of test and research results should be measured and interpretated. We are investigating these continuities and changes.


China in the global system of science

2020 Ahlers, Anna Lisa

Cultural Studies

The People’s Republic of China has rapidly become one of most important players in the system of science. The country is now the biggest producer of scientific articles, is home to scientists whose findings and methods regularly make headlines, and invests heavily in research at home and abroad. What are the origins of these developments and what effects do they yield? The new Lise Meitner research group at the MPIWG examines these dynamics and is particularly interested in the societal environments of science and scholarship in China and the challenges of international research cooperation.


Heisenberg and the search for a final theory

2019 Blum, Alexander S

Cultural Studies

The search for a „final theory“ was a leitmotif of physics in the 20th Century. The Max Planck Research Group „Historical Epistemology of the Final Theory Program“, headed by Alexander Blum, studies and assesses this century-long search, using the methods of historical epistemology. Here it presents the (failed) attempts of the later Werner Heisenberg at constructing such a final theory.


The working group Proteins and Fibers at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science delves into how techniques and methods of using animal materials has developed in history across various locations and moments in time. The history of surgical silk sutures in Japan points to a fresh approach toward the history of animals. By focusing on proteinaceous fibers as the stuff of life subject to scientific analysis, a history of biological materiality begins to take shape.

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