Johanna Biank

Predoctoral Fellow
Predoctoral Fellows are candidates for a doctorate at an accredited university financed in part or in whole by the MPIWG. These scholars carry minor responsibilities (no more than 10% of their time) within their research unit.
Department I
MA, Doctoral Student, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
December 1, 2012 to September 30, 2017

Johanna completed her MA in Greek Studies at Humboldt University Berlin (2011), with the thesis entitled "'Kallimachos’ Akontios und Kydippe und der griechische Liebesroman.” Her present research deals with the transfer and transformation of ancient astronomical knowledge in the Early Modern Period.

On the basis of the CRC 980 thesis that transfer processes always generate new knowledge, Johanna intends to investigate the manner in which spherical astronomy was reshaped and classical astronomical sources were reassessed during the Renaissance, due to novel intellectual challenges, especially in the context of the humanistic culture. In particular, she is working on the fifteenth and sixteenth-century reception of pseudo-Proclus’s introduction to astronomy, Σφαῖρα or Sphaera. Her thesis is that in the Renaissance this introductory work represented the humanistic counterpart to Sacrobosco’s introductory textbook, the more so since it was generally regarded as a neo-Platonic source. In order to establish the impact and the interpretation of pseudo-Proclus’s Sphaera on Renaissance culture, a broad investigation shall be accomplished concerning the astronomical culture of that age, the circulation of literary sources relevant for astronomy (such as Aratus, Manilius, and Hyginus) as well as the relation between the humanistic movement and scholasticism.

Johanna is supervised by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Renn, and co-supervised by Prof. Dr. Markus Asper. She is a member of the MPIWG projects CRC 980 Episteme in Motion: Transfer of Knowledge from the Ancient World to the Early Modern Period; and Project B06: Formation of Cosmological Knowledge in the Pre-Modern Era: Transmission and Change from a Diachronic and Transcultural Perspective.

Selected publications: 

Biank, J. (2016). Clavius, Christophorus. In M. Sgarbi (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy (pp. 1-5). Cham/CH: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_54-1.

Read more
May 2015
Scientiae 2015, Victoria College, University of Toronto
"Pseudo-Proclus’s Sphere: An Alternative Textbook to Sacrobosco’s Treatise?"
June 2014
Ph.D. conference (co-organizer with Gunthild Peters), MPIWG, Berlin
"Land Ahoy!"


Max Planck Institute for the History of Science 
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14195 Berlin