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

What is the History of Science?

The history of science focuses on the study of scientific knowledge. It undertakes to understand both the historical development and nature of scientific thinking and fundamental scientific concepts. To expand the history of science to the history of knowledge, researchers at our Chair investigate institutionalised forms of science, such as the university and academies, scientific collections, and the technical skills of specialists and the everyday practices of laymen. Students examine classical source material such as books, formulas and scientific specimens alongside non-traditional media, such as document footnotes, laboratory tables and exhibition furniture. A recent shift toward the materiality and mediality of knowledge validates how essential a differentiated understanding of tangible objects is to scholarship. This shift also shows that the methods and purpose of an object's construction become discernable only after its historical evaluation.


The Berlin Center for the History of Knowledge

The website "The Berlin Center for the History of Knowledge" ("Berliner Zentrum für Wissensgeschichte") informs students as well as an interested public about teaching and research activities. Please note the Courses and Lectures (a course catalogue including lectures and seminars of all Berlin universities), News and Events, which list colloquia, workshops and conferences.


Introductory Literature on the History of Knowledge and the History of Science

  • Burke, Peter, What ist the History of Knowledge. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016 [2015].
  • Hessenbruch, Arne (ed.), The Reader's Guide to the History of Science. London: Routledge, 2000.
  • Hoffmann, D., Laitko, H., und Müller-Wille, S. (eds.), Lexikon der bedeutenden Naturwissenschaftler, 3 Bände (2003-2007). München: Akademischer Verlag.
  • The Cambridge History of Science, 8 Volumes (2002-2020). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hagner, Michael (ed.), Ansichten der Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2001.

Michael Hagner's Ansichten der Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Perspectives on the History of Science) offers insights into the historiography of science, its interrelations with other fields of the humanities as well as its objects and aims. The introduction to this collection of essays, first published in 2001, can be downloaded here.



  • Jahn, Ilse (ed.), Geschichte der Biologie. Theorien, Methoden, Institutionen, Kurzbiografien. Jena: Gustav Fischer Verlag, 2002 [1982].
  • Pickstone, John V., Ways of Knowing: A New History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2001 [2000].
  • Serres, Michel (ed.), Elemente einer Geschichte der Wissenschaften. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 2002 [1989].
  • Sommer, M., Müller-Wille, S., und Reinhardt, C. (eds.), Handbuch Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 2017.


This handbook (available in German) gives a comprehensive overview over the historic and current history of science in its application to all branches of science. The different research approaches as well as a global history of the sciences are introduced. Areas of interests are: locations and epochs, sites of knowledge production, science and the history of the modern world. The handbook can be downloaded here via VPN access.