History of German Neuromorphology

The Making of a New Research Field: On the Pursuit of Interdisciplinarity in the German Neuromorphological Sciences, 1910–1945

Cooperation Partners: 

Dr. Cornelius Borck, Director, Professor of History of Medicine and Science, Institute for History of Medicine and Science Studies, University of Luebeck – Germany, Professor Stephen Casper, History of Medicine and Science Program, Clarkson University – Potsdam (New York), United States, Professor Stanley Finger, History of Psychology and History of Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis – St. Louis (MO), United States, Dr. Paul Foley, Australian ARC Fellow & Conjoint Lecturer, School of Medical Sciences, UNSW, Research Institute, University of New South Prince of Wales Medical Research Wales – Sydney, Australia

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Map drawing of the Neurological Institute (Clinical Department – Villa Sommerhoff) in Frankfurt am Main with adjacent functional buildings housing the rehabilitation units (Kurt Goldstein, 1919)

This book project aimed at reconstructing the important merging tendencies that since the 1910s have brought formerly separated disciplines (anatomy, physiology, neurology, psychiatry, radiology, and serology etc.) much closer together. Research in the neurosciences avant la lettre was hence strongly reorganized in interdisciplinary research groups and found its substrate in new centers for neuroscientific research (e.g., in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Breslau, etc.), especially in the German-speaking countries.

In Frank Stahnisch's book project, current theories from sociology and philosophy of science that have dealt with the problem of “interdisciplinarity” in the biomedical sciences from a theoretical perspective were explored. The research was followed by an historiographical account of the development of related concepts of the period in their specific cultural settings, while focusing on specific working groups, laboratories, and research centers. It was shown, with respect to the German neuromorphological sciences between 1910 and 1945, that historical concepts, practice, and organizational patterns existed early in the twentieth century that legitimized the use of the term of “interdisciplinary research” even at that particular time.

This study specifically explored the historiographical roles, narratives, and epistemological meanings of concepts of “interdisciplinarity” in the neuroscientific community between 1910 and 1945. The project added to the growing corpus of literature on German neuroscience in a time period that has not received as much attention from medical historians as it should have, in order to better understand the scientific, organizational, and cultural innovations that strongly determined the course of biomedical research after WWII.

  • “German-Speaking Émigré-Neuroscientists in Canada after 1933: Critical Reflections on Emigration- Induced Scientific Change.” In: Christian Fleck (ed.): Forced Migration of Scholars and Scientists in the 20th Century. A special issue of Oesterreichische Zeitschrift fuer Geschichtswissenschaften (Vienna) 21 (2010), ca. 30 pp. (in print).[This article will also appear as a Pre-Print in the Preprint Series of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (Germany)].
  • “Flexible Antworten – Offene Fragen: Zu den Foerderungsstrategien der Rockefellerstiftung fuer die deutsche Hirnforschung im Nationalsozialismus.” In: Journal fuer Neurologie, Neurochirurgie und Psychiatrie 11 (2010), ca. 7 pp. (in print).
  • “Transforming the Lab: Technological and Societal Concerns in the Pursuit of De- and Regeneration in the German Morphological Neurosciences, 1910-1930.” In: Medicine Studies. An International Journal for History, Philosophy, and Ethics of Medicine & Allied Sciences 1 (2009), pp. 41-54.
  • “’Abwehr’, ‘Widerstand’ und ‘kulturelle Neuorientierung’ - Zu Re-Konfigurationen der Traumaforschung bei zwangsemigrierten deutschsprachigen Neurologen und Psychiatern.” In: Trauma und Wissenschaft. André Karger (ed.) (= Psychoanalytische Blätter, Vol. 29. Mathias Hirsch et al. (eds.)), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: Goettingen, Zurich 2009, pp. 29-60.
  • “Psychiatrie und Hirnforschung: Zu den interstitiellen Uebergaengen des staedtischen Wissenschaftsraums im Labor der Berliner Metropole – Oskar und Cécile Vogt, Korbinian Brodmann, Kurt Goldstein.” In: Psychiater und Zeitgeist. Zur Geschichte der Psychiatrie in Berlin. H. Helmchen (ed.), Pabst Science Publisher: Berlin 2008, pp. 76-93.
  • “Ueber Forschungsentwicklungen der Neurostimulation nach 1945: Historische und ethische Aspekte medizinischer Manipulationen am menschlichen Gehirn.” In: Wuerzburger medizinhistorische Mitteilungen 27 (2008), pp. 307-346.
  • “Zur Zwangsemigration deutschsprachiger Neurowissenschaftler nach Nordamerika: Der historische Fall des Montreal Neurological Institute.“ In: Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft fuer Geschichte der Nervenheilkunde 14 (2008), pp. 414-442.
  • “Ludwig Edinger (1855-1918) – Pioneer in Neurology.” In: Journal of Neurology 255 (2008), pp. 147-148.

Funding Institutions

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation – AvH (Bonn)
University of Calgary – UofC (Alberta)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG (Bonn)
Gerda Henkel Foundation (Duesseldorf)
German Academic Exchange Service – DAAD (New York)
Montreal Neurological Institute – MNI (Québec)