Biographies in the History of Physics: Actors, Objects, and Institutions

Biographies in the History of Physics: Actors, Objects, and Institutions

Christian Forstner, Dieter Hoffmann, Mark Walker (Fachverband Geschichte der Physik der Deutschen Physikalischen Gesellschaft)
Bad Honnef
Vom - Bis
22.05.2018 - 25.05.2018
Christian Forstner

A Workshop for Young Academics from the German Physical Society’s Section for History of Physics, supported by the Wilhelm and Else Heraeus Foundation

The workshops aims to shed new light on the biographical approach in the history of physics by including the biography of scientific objects and institutions. In the past biographical approaches in history of science have been frowned upon as superficial and not theoretical enough. This changed at the beginnings of the 1990s with a new kind of socio-biography, which also included the social and cultural context in the historical narrative about the central actor in the biography. Today the biographical approach is extended to institutions and objects as well. During their “life time” institutions and objects change their use, and their meaning. For example, an object may change from a research object to a teaching instrument, and then become part of a collection or an exhibit. This change can take different forms, and often the different levels overlap. A biography of objects allows the different meanings of an object to unfold in one narrative. Especially we want to encourage young scholars to present their research, and ask the question how the biographical approach may contribute to a better understanding of the history of physics.

Speakers will be asked to submit manuscripts of their talks ahead of time. The talks will be followed by a prepared commentary by a senior colleague who has read the manuscript. The language of the workshop will be English.

Accommodation and food will be provided by the Physics Center. Travel expenses will be reimbursed up to 80 Euro for five young scholars based in Germany, up to 250 Euro for two young scholars based in Europe, and 750 Euro for two young scholars based outside Europe.

The goal of this workshop is to support younger scholars in the history of physics, both inside and outside of Germany. The workshop is organized by Christian Forstner, Dieter Hoffmann, and Mark Walker.

Please send until December, 15th 2017 a paper title and abstract to:
Christian Forstner,



Christian Forstner

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Postfach 104, 60486 Frankfurt

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