Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Max­Planck­Research Magazine

Issue 2018

MaxPlanckResearch 1/2018

A Model for Greater Togetherness

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.
Issue 2017

MaxPlanckResearch 2/2017

Stacking Data
Big data isn’t an entirely new phenomenon, as far as historians of science are concerned. Even in the 18th and 19th centuries, scholars, scientists and state authorities collected huge quantities of data, and analyzing all this raw material posed a challenge back then just as it does today. A group led by Elena Aronova, Christine von Oertzen and David Sepkoski at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin looks at the methods used in the past – many of them unexpected – and examines how changes in data handling has ultimately brought about changes in science and society.
Issue 2016

MaxPlanckResearch 2/2016

Leaves of Truth

Objectivity ranks as one of the highest ideals in research, but that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it began to vie with the centuries-old principle of natural truth. Even today, the two concepts still come into conflict. As the author explains, some scientific controversies are more easily understood through a closer look at the history of science.

Issue 2015

MaxPlanckResearch - 3/2015

The Master Plans of the Mandarins
The ancient Chinese invented not only fireworks, porcelain and the wheelbarrow, but the precursor of post-its as well – those self-sticking, yellow pieces of paper used for writing down all sorts of notes. These are the kinds of sources that Dagmar Schäfer and her team at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin examine to learn more about planning histories and their impact on society, thereby also challenging the paradigms of their own discipline.
Issue 2012

MaxPlanckResearch 3/2012

The Science of the Studio
Not only did they create impressive works of art, they also took an interest in alchemy, mathematics and the natural sciences. At the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, researchers headed by Sven Dupré are studying how artists in the early modern era discovered, depicted and circulated new knowledge through their works.

MaxPlanckResearch 2/2012

Biology – A Systemic Redefinition?
The terms systems biology and synthetic biology are currently experiencing a boom – something that has already occurred several times in the history of biology. But what do they actually signify in scientific terms? Are they an expression of a far-reaching change within the discipline, or mere promotional buzzwords that simply “fill old wine into new bottles” in order to present it in a more palatable form? An analysis.

MaxPlanckResearch 2/2012

The Observer
Curious? Yes, she certainly is. And also obsessed – with books. This combination happily converged in her profession. As Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, US-born Lorraine Daston, whose first name is an anglicized version of Urania, the muse of astronomy, researches the history of observation and experiment. Or, in other words, how data was collated and illustrated in the past.

MaxPlanckResearch 1/2012

The Brewers of Babylon
Over 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, fermented cereal juices enjoyed great popularity. The Sumerian inhabitants are considered to have been skilled brewers of beer. But how much did their ancient brews have in common with the beers of today? To answer this question, Peter Damerow, a proto-cuneiform expert at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, studied the annals of ancient Sumer.
Issue 2010

MPR 2 /2010

Dancing with Bees
What is the significance of the dances of bees, which have been observed since antiquity? Karl von Frisch decoded the mystery.
Issue 2009

MPR 1 /2009

Science in Sketches
They look as if they’ve been haphazardly dashed off, are often hard to decipher and are obviously not intended for anyone else
to understand.
Issue 2008

MPR 2 /2008

Equations of Discontinuity
Many years passed before the new physics discovered by Max Planck was explained mathematically and established as quantum mechanics.
Issue 2007

MPR 4 /2007

Succeeding Outside the Mainstream
The Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to Gerhard Ertl brings the Max Planck Society‘s Nobel laureate count up to 17 since its founding in 1948.

MPR 2 /2007

The Machinery of Life
For some animals, 19th century scientific testing methods included being firmly clamped into an experimental device. Today, researchers are documenting the origins of physiology on the Internet.
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