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

Dr Susanne Schmidt

Dr Susanne Schmidt
Assistant Professor (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin)
Email (at)

Humboldt-Universität → Präsidium → Philosophische Fakultät → Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften → Wissenschaftsgeschichte mit einem Schwerpunkt in der Geschichte der Bildung und der Organisation des Wissens im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert
Visiting address
Friedrichstraße 191-193 , Room 5070
Phone number
(030) 2093-70627
Mailing address
Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin

Office hours                        Tuesday, 5–6 p.m. Sign up here.


→ German-language website / Website auf Deutsch

→ Vita

→ Research interests

→ Research projects

→ Publications



Susanne Schmidt is an Assistant Professor (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) in history at Humboldt University, where she studies the history of the human sciences. Her book Midlife Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2020) provides the first historical study of the controversial concept of midlife crisis, which gained traction as a feminist idea in the United States in the 1970s before it was redefined by psychologists and psychiatrists. Susanne received her Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge in 2018. She was an Assistant Professor (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) in Global History at Freie University Berlin (2018–20) and Tandem Fellow in History of Knowledge & Knowledge Cultures at the German Historical Institute and Georgetown University, Washington, DC (2019–20), and a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University, the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University, and the Department of History at Stanford University. 

Susanne received the first-book award of the German History of Science Society (GWMT) and the prize for the best article published in N.T.M. (2021) and a Career Development Award at the Berlin University Alliance (2021–22). Her research has been supported by the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Max Weber Foundation, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Kurt Hahn Trust, and others. You can learn more about her current research on the history of the marshmallow test and delayed gratification in this interview.


Research interests

  • History of science, technology and medicine, esp. the human sciences
  • History of gender and feminism
  • History of expertise & science in public
  • US history, Caribbean, and Latin American history
  • Psychological humanities


Research Projects

The Marshmallow Test: Candy, Race, and Personality in Social Science, 1950–today

This book project historicizes the construction of self-control as a fundamental capacity that, if acquired early, can be of benefit in later life. It investigates the history of the marshmallow test, the definitive procedure for assessing self-control in children and young adolescents, who are given one marshmallow (or other treat) right away—or two if they wait. The project traces the marshmallow test from its first instalments in the 1950s to current debates about replicability, looking at research conducted especially in the US, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Fashion: A Keyword in Social Thought, 1850–today

“Fashion” refers to the latest style of clothing, but the term has also been used to describe and evaluate changing social and ethical norms, cultural habits, patterns of behaviour, and even political attitudes and scientific theory. This project examines fashion as a catchword in social thought, asking for its changing meanings and function in nineteenth- and twentieth-century legal thought and political theory, cultural history, sociology, mass communication and survey research. Making visible an ambiguous, broad notion of fashion in which the material and the conceptual intersect, this research contributes to an understanding of fashion as an ethical, economic, political, and epistemological concept.




  • Midlife Crisis: The Feminist Origins of a Chauvinist Cliché (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
    • Book award of the German History of Science Society (GWMT). 
    • Reviewed in American Historical ReviewBritish Journal for the History of ScienceSocial History of MedicineJournal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences; Journal of American HistoryN.T.M. Journal of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine; ChoiceEuropean Journal for the History of Medicine and Health; HSozKult; New Republic; Times Literary Supplement; Medium.
    • Japanese translation: 女性の中年危機 ~ミドルエイジ・クライシスをチャンスに変える方法~, Tokyo: Newton Science Magazine Publishing, 2021; paperback 2022.
    • German translation: Midlife Crisis: Von den feministischen Ursprüngen eines Männerklischees. Munich: Goldmann/Penguin Random House, revised translation, forthcoming 2024.


Special Issues/Edited Collections

  • co-edited with Lisa Malich, "Cocooning. Umwelt und Geschlecht in den Sozial-, Human- und Lebenswissenschaften seit 1800" [Cocooning: Environment and Gender in Social Thought and the Human Sciences, 1800–today], N.T.M. Journal of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine 29 (2021), no. 1. Lead guest-editor.
  • co-edited with Max Stadler, Nils Güttler, Niki Rhyner et al., "Gegen/Wissen" [Counterknowledge], cache: Magazin für die Geschichte und Gegenwart der wissenschaftlich-technischen Welt 1.
    • Reviewed in Der Freitag. 

Journal Articles & Book Chapters

  • "Environment/Mother: Psychological Ecology, Gender, and Backlash, 1940–1990", Isis 116 (forthcoming 2025), no. 2.
  • "Über die vergessenen Anfänge des Marshmallow-Tests" [The Forgotten Origins of the Marshmallow Test], Psychologische Rundschau 73 (2022), no. 3, 204–205.
  • "Pop or Popularization? The Boundaries between Social Science and Journalism." In Journalists and Knowledge Practices: Histories of Observing the Everyday in the Newspaper Age, ed. by Hansjakob Ziemer. New York: Routledge 2022, 249–271.
  • co-authored with Lisa Malich, "Cocooning: Umwelt und Geschlecht. Einleitung" [Cocooning: Environment and Gender. Introduction], N.T.M. Journal of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine 29 (2021), no. 1, 1–10. First and corresponding author.
  • "Umwelt-Sein: Mutterschaft, Entwicklung und Psychologie 1930-1900" [Environmentality: Motherhood, Development, and Psychology, 1930-1990], N.T.M. Journal of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine 29 (2021), no. 1, 77–112.
    • Annual article award of the German History of Science Society (GWMT).
  • "Prick Art," cache: Magazin für die Geschichte und Gegenwart der wissenschaftlich-technischen Welt 1 (2020), no. III, 26–37.
  • co-authored with Anna Maria Schmidt, "Feministische Natur"  [Feminist Nature], cache: Magazin für die Geschichte und Gegenwart der wissenschaftlich-technischen Welt 1 (2020), no. II, 1–14. Shared first authorship.
  • "Menocore: Feminist Constructions of Midlife since 1900." In Reinventing, Rethinking and Re-presenting Menopause, ed. by Beverley Carruthers and Jane Woollatt. London: London College of Communication 2019, 10–15.
  • "The Anti-Feminist Reconstruction of the Midlife Crisis: Popular Psychology, Journalism and Social Science in 1970s USA," Gender & History 30 (2018), no. 1 , 153–176.
  • "Crisis: Where Human Nature Meets Cultural Critique," Independent Social Research Foundation Bulletin 17 (2018), 34–41. 
  • "Midlife-Crisis: Die feministischen Ursprünge eines chauvinistischen Klischees" [Midlife Crisis: The Feminist Origins of a Chauvinist Cliché], Nach Feierabend: Zürcher Jahrbuch für Wissensgeschichte 14 (2018), 179–198.
  • "The Feminist Origins of the Midlife Crisis," Historical Journal 61 (2018), no. 2, 503–523.


Review Articles & Book Reviews

  • "The Prenatal Gaze." Essay review of The Maternal Imprint: The Contested Science of Maternal-Fetal Effects, by Sarah S. Richardson, and Weighing the Future: Science, Race, and Pregnancy Trials in the Postgenomic Age, by Natali Valdez, Isis 114 (2023), no. 1, 189–192.
  • Review of Chemically Imbalanced: Everyday Suffering, Medication, and Our Troubled Quest for Self-Mastery, by Joseph E. Davis, Ambix 69 (2022), no. 1, 87–89.
  • Review of Broken Dreams: An Intimate History of the Midlife Crisis, by Mark Jackson, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 57 (2021), no. 4, 430–432.
  • Essay review of Rethinking Therapeutic Culture, edited by Timothy Aubry und Trysh Travis, and Groovy Science: Knowledge, Innovation, and American Counterculture, edited by David Kaiser and W. Patrick McKay, Isis 108 (2017), no. 4, 946–948.
  • Review of Breaking up Time: Negotiating the Borders between Present, Past and Future, edited by Chris Lorenz, and Berber Bevernage, Traverse, no. 3 (2016), 138.
  • Review of American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street, by Paula Rabinowitz, H-Soz-u-Kult, December 2016.
  • Review of The Prime of Life: A History of Modern Adulthood, by Steven Mintz, H-Soz-u-Kult, January 2016.

Newspapers, Radio, Blogs

  • "Advent heißt Panik" [Christmas Means Panic], ZEIT Online: 10 nach 8, 7 December 2021.
  • "Midlife Crisis: Ein Konzept zwischen Feminismus und Backlash" [Midlife Crisis: From Feminism to Backlash], Genderblog, Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies, Humboldt University Berlin, 1 October 2020.
  • "Über 40 muss sie nichts mehr müssen"[At 40, Enough is Enough], ZEIT Online: 10 nach 8, 13 March 2020.
  • "Midlife Crisis – Die Geschichte eines missverstandenen Konzepts" [Midlife Crisis: The History of a Misunderstood Concept], Deutschlandfunk, Essay & Diskurs, 12 August 2018.
    • Rebroadcast 22 August 2023.
  • "How Feminists Invented the Male Midlife Crisis," Zócalo Public Square, 1 June 2018.
  • "Im Sportwagen durch die Vierziger" [Through the Forties in a Sports Car], Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 27 March 2018.


  • "Midlife-Crisis – gibt es das noch?" [Midlife Crisis – Does It Still Exist?], WDR 5, 13 February 2024.
  • "Bloß keine Abenteuer: Wo bleibt die Midlife-Crisis der Millenials?" [No Adventures Please: Where Is the Midlife Crisis for Millenials?], Tagesspiegel, 5 February 2024.
  • "Por qué la crisis de los 40 puede ser la única que esquiven los mileniales" [Why the Midlife Crisis Might Be the Only One Millennials Manage to Avoid], El País, 29 July 2023.
  • "Millennials in der Dauerkrise: Der Gipfel der Unzufriedenheit" [Millennials in Permanent Crisis: Peak Unhappiness], tag eins, 13 July 2023.
  • "De tijd lijkt rijp voor de vrouwelijke midlifecrisis—zowel in Hollywoodfictie als in de werkelijkheid" [Time Seems Ripe for Women’s Midlife Crisis—in Hollywood Fiction As Much As in Real Life], Volkskrant, 28 March 2023.
  • "This Isn't the Middle Age Millennials Expected," New York Times, 19 March 2023.
  • "Midlife Crisis: Feministische Ursprünge eines chauvinistischen Klischees" [Midlife Crisis: Feminist Origins of a Chauvinist Cliché], Wunderwesen Podcast – feministische Fragen in Kunst, Kultur und Wissenschaft, 29 November 2022.
  • "Die Krise ist eben nicht immer die Krise der Männer" [Crisis Isn't Always Just for Men], Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, 17 November 2022.
  • "Midlife Crisis," BBC Radio 4, 29 April 2020.
  • "Midlife Crisis: Mehr als ein Mythos?" [Midlife Crisis: Not just a Myth?] Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bayern 2), 29 January 2020.