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

Dr Susanne Schmidt

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

Philosophische Fakultät → Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften → Wissenschaftsgesch. /Schwerpkt. Bild.u.Org.d.Wissens 19./20.Jhd.
Visiting address
Friedrichstraße 191-193 , Room 5070
Phone number
(030) 2093-70627
Mailing address
Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin

→ German version

→ Vita

→ Research interests

→ Research projects

→ Selected publications


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Susanne Schmidt is an Assistant Professor (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) in history at Humboldt University, where she studies the history of the cognitive, behavioural and social 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 a Post-doctoral Fellow in Global History at Freie Universität Berlin (2018–20), Tandem Fellow in History of Knowledge & Knowledge Cultures at the German Historical Institute and Georgetown University, Washington, DC (2019–20), and has spent time as a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University, and the Center for Science and Society at Columbia 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. (both 2021) and a Career Development Award at the Berlin University Alliance (2021–22); her research has been supported by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German Academic Scholarship Foundation), Max Weber Foundation, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Kurt Hahn Trust, and others.


Research interests

  • History of science, technology and medicine, esp. the cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences
  • History of gender and feminism
  • History of expertise & science in public
  • US history and global history
  • Psychological humanities


Research projects

The Marshmallow Test: Psychology, Race, and Education in the Americas, 1950–2010

One marshmallow now—but a second one if you can wait: The marshmallow test is a psychological experiment to measure self-control in children and adolescents. According to social scientists, the ability to "delay gratification" indicates rationality, patience, and motivation. Children who ace the test—who wait for another marshmallow—have been shown to score better grades in school and achieve overall higher educational attainment, to be more confident, more successful in their job as adults, and altogether healthier and happier in their lives. This research project studies the history of one of social science’s favourite measures, asking for its social and political implications and effects.

Commodity and Value: A Different History of Fashion

"Fashion" refers to the latest style of clothing, but the term is also used to describe and evaluate changing social and ethical norms, cultural habits, patterns of behaviour, and even political attitudes and scientific theory. The book project explores the history and function of this ambiguous, broad notion of fashion in which the material and the conceptual intersect. It contributes to an understanding of fashion as an ethical, economic, political, and epistemological concept.

Selected publications


  • Midlife Crisis: The Feminist Origins of a Chauvinist Cliché (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
    Reviewed in Journal of American HistorySocial History of Medicine, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, N.T.M. Journal of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, European Journal for the History of Medicine and HealthHSozKultThe New RepublicTimes Literary Supplement and Medium. Recommended by the American Library Association (Choice). Excerpted in Lapham's Quarterly. Foreign translations: Japanese (Newton Press, 2021) and Chinese (Beijing Yanziyue Culture and Art Studio, in preparation). First-book award of the German History of Science Society (Gesellschaft für die Geschichte der Wissenschaften, der Medizin und der Technik).


Edited collection/special issue

  • 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), vol. 1.
  • co-edited with Max Stadler, Niki Rhyner et al., "Gegen/Wissen", cache: Magazin für die Geschichte und Gegenwart der wissenschaftlich-technischen Welt 1.
    Reviewed in Der Freitag.

Journal articles

Contributed chapters

  • "Pop or Popularization? The Boundaries between Social Science and Journalism." In Observing the Everyday: Journalistic Practices and Knowledge Production in the Modern Era, ed. by Hansjakob Ziemer (New York: Routledge), 249–271.

Short articles

  • "Prick Art," cache: Magazin für die Geschichte und Gegenwart der wissenschaftlich-technischen Welt 1 (2020), vol. III, 26–37.
  • co-authored with Anna Mara Schmidt, "Feministische Natur"  [Feminist Nature], cache: Magazin für die Geschichte und Gegenwart der wissenschaftlich-technischen Welt 1 (2020), vol. II, 1–14.
  • "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.
  • "Crisis: Where Human Nature Meets Cultural Critique," Independent Social Research Foundation Bulletin 17 (2018), 34–41.

Book reviews

  • Review of Chemically Imbalanced: Everyday Suffering, Medication, and Our Troubled Quest for Self-Mastery, by Joseph E. Davis, Ambix 69 (2022), vol. 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), vol. 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), vol. 4, 946–948.
  • Review of Breaking up Time: Negotiating the Borders between Present, Past and Future, edited by Chris Lorenz, and Berber Bevernage, Traverse, vol. 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", ZEIT Online: 10 nach 8, 7 December 2021.
  • "Midlife Crisis: Ein Konzept zwischen Feminismus und Backlash," Genderblog, Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies, Humboldt University Berlin, 1 October 2020.
  • "Über 40 muss sie nichts mehr müssen," ZEIT Online: 10 nach 8, 13 March 2020.
  • "Midlife Crisis - Die Geschichte eines missverstandenen Konzepts," Deutschlandfunk, Essay & Diskurs, 12 August 2018.
  • "How Feminists Invented the Male Midlife Crisis," Zocalo Public Square, 1 June 2018.
  • "Im Sportwagen durch die Vierziger," Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 27 March 2018.


  • "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.