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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Science, technology and medicine in German-speaking Europe

Title page from the 1932 Madaus Yearbook, a promotional publication by a manufacturer of herbal remedies.

As a consequence of the emergence of the earliest research-oriented universities in various German states at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Germany was generally regarded over the period 1850-1930 as the major international centre of both research training and scientific excellence. From the mid-nineteenth century, moreover, German medical faculties were the first in Europe to emphasise the importance of laboratory-based medical research and education. As a result, Germany was particularly important in shaping the face of medicine in all its aspects including modern bacteriology.  In the twentieth century, on the other hand, historians of science, technology and medicine have tended to study the 'Third Reich' in order to understand how academic communities have functioned under conditions of extreme political pressure. Moreover, the integration of medicine and public health into the Nazi state and their role in the holocaust and medical war crimes have raised issues of both historical and ethical importance. Work in this area at CHSTM ranges widely across all three forms of knowledge.

Flurin Condrau has worked on the history of tuberculosis and infectious diseases from an Anglo-German comparative perspective, focussing upon such issues as social policy and hospitals, patients and the sick role, as well as the epidemiology of the mortality decline. His current work concerns German industrial society with a particular emphasis on the occupational health of white-collar workers, using a case study of Siemens to understand the dynamics of health at work.

Jonathan Harwood has worked on the history of the German genetics community as well as addressing more general issues such as the institutions and ideology of the twentieth-century German academic community. In recent years his interests have shifted toward the agricultural sciences, and he is currently writing a book on plant-breeding in German-speaking Europe, circa 1890-1945.

Carsten Timmermann has studied the responses of the interwar German medical community to the notion that medicine was undergoing a fundamental 'crisis'. More recently he has undertaken work on the history of cardiovascular research in the post-1945 era and especially hypertension, comparing East and West Germany with Britain and the US. Currently he is studying the reception of US models in medicine and medical science in both German states. He is particularly interested in the rise of the risk-factor approach.

Recent and forthcoming publications by CHSTM staff and students

Carsten Timmermann. "Appropriating risk factors: the reception of an American approach to chronic disease in the two German states, circa 1950-1990". Social History of Medicine, in press.

Carsten Timmermann,  "Risikofaktoren und die Gesundheit der Deutschen: Der scheinbar unaufhaltsame Erfolg eines Ansatzes aus der amerikanischen Epidemiologie in der deutschen Nachkriegsmedizin". In Martin Lengwiler and Jeanette Madarasz, eds, Transformationen des präventiven Selbst: Vorsorgepraktiken in der Moderne, a volume on the history of public health and preventive medicine in Germany, Bielefeld: Transcript, in press.

Carsten Timmermann, "Modell Amerika? Amerikanische Vorbilder in Klinik und Forschung, untersucht am Beispiel des Kerckhoff-Institutes in Bad Nauheim". Medizinhistorisches Journal, in press.

Jonathan Harwood. Technology's dilemma: agricultural colleges between science and practice in Germany, 1860-1934. Bern: Peter Lang, 2005.

Flurin Condrau. "Arbeitsplatz als Gesundheitsrisiko. Medizin und Arbeit in Deutschland nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg". In Clemens Wischermann and Karl-Peter Ellerbrock, eds, Die Wirtschaftsgeschichte vor der Herausforderung durch die New Institutional Economics. Münster: Ardey, 2004,  242-255.

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