Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Chair for the History of Science

M.A. Silke Körber

M.A. Silke Körber

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Silke Körber studied German literature, Political Science, and Journalism and Communication Science at the Free University Berlin. After receiving her Magister Artium degree, she worked as an editor for various publishing houses, in addition to being a freelance research assistant at the Topoi Excellence Cluster (2013–2016). Her current research is supported by scholarships from the German Historical Institute London and Washington as well as an Elsa Neumann Fellowship.


Research Interests

  • Philosophy and History of Science
  • Knowledge Transfer and Visualization of Knowledge
  • Book History (esp. 19th and 20th century Non-Fiction Book Publishing)


Research Project

A modern symbolic language in the “century of the eye”: Otto Neurath’s “international picture language” and the democratisation of knowledge in illustrated non-fiction books

The interdisciplinary research project studies the relationship between the development and promotion of a new symbolic language and the origin of illustrated non-fiction books as an instrument of knowledge transfer during the 20th century: Isotype (International System of Typographic Picture Education) was created by the social scientist and philosopher Otto Neurath (1882–1945) with a view to a “democratisation of knowledge”, respectively a method of “humanising” scientific information. Within this research project Neurath’s picture education is interpreted in the context of the “scientific world view” as put forth by the Vienna Circle. According to Neurath this “scientific world view” was supposed to form the basis of an egalitarian concept of modern society. Later his approach could be described as a form of integrative encyclopedianism.

Neurath’s work and influence in the field of museum education has been thoroughly examined as well as his international scientific cooperations and publications. But he did not advance his aim via these channels exclusively.

During his exile in Great Britain he cooperated with Jewish émigrés and leftist intellectual publishers from Vienna and Berlin. Driven by the desire for content that was both objective and rational they developed “integrated” text-image structures that were visually modern and semantically closely linked. In order to do this they established creative practices in specialised teams and specific organisational and economical structures. In the course of the internationalisation of the book market after 1945 and by using successively improved production techniques to produce visualised subjects in high-quality the publications eventually reached the mass market.

Picture credit: Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection, University of Reading.



  • "The Democratization of Knowledge and a New Visual Culture: Popular Illustrated Non-Fiction Books by German-speaking Émigré Publishers in Britain during and after the Second World War". In: Publishing History 76/2016, S. 57–76
  • „Paul Steiner“, Transatlantic Perspectives, 2014,
  • "Was soll das Bild im Buch? Überlegungen zum illustrierten Sachbuch". In: Non Fiktion. Arsenal der anderen Gattungen. 5. Jh., H. 1/2, 2010, S. 143–158.