Karin Zachmann

Visiting Scholar
Visiting Scholars are established scholars, as evidenced by significant publications and broad academic experience, spending a fixed term as guests at the MPIWG for research purposes. They may be externally funded or receive a Research Fellowship from the MPIWG.
Department III
Prof. Dr. rer. oec. habil., Professor of the History of Technology, Technische Universität München (TUM)
August 15, 2017 to September 30, 2017

Karin Zachmann (Dr.) is Professor for the history of technology at the School of Education and the Munich Center for Technology in Society at the Technical University of Munich. She obtained her doctorate from the Technical University of Dresden with a dissertation on the role of patents in establishing and regulating the emerging chemical fiber industry in Germany. Her habilitation dealt with the restructuring of engineering education and and the engineering profession in the GDR. Her 2004 book, Mobilisierung der Frauen. Technik, Geschlecht und Kalter Krieg in der DDR [Mobilization of Women:  Technology, Gender, and the Cold War in the German Democratic Republic] received the Deutsches Museum’s Award for the Best Book in 2005.  

The starting point for Karin’s current research project is the observation that the complexity of producing and using technology increased rapidly throughout the 20th and in the early 21st centuries, and thus new areas of ignorance emerged. At the same time demands on safety and reliability grew. She wants to know how new forms of knowledge emerged to determine the safety and reliability of technological artifacts, processes and systems and how this knowledge attained the status of evidence. 

Karin teaches a broad range of courses at the TU-Munich, on such varied topics as the relationship of technology with the Cold War, material culture, and nature and society. MIT Press published her jointly-edited (with Ruth Oldenziel) volume, Cold War Kitchen: Americanization, Technology, and European Users in 2009. An anthology with the title Past and Present Energy Societies. How Energy Connects Politics, Technologies and Cultures that she jointly edited with Nina Moellers was published by transcript Verlag in May 2012. Together with Nicole Karafyllis, she coedited a special issue of the German journal Technikgeschichte [vol. 84/2017, issue 2] on “Pflanzliche Biofakte: Geschichten über die Technisierung der Agrikultur im 20. Jahrhundert” (Plants as Biofacts: Histories of Agricultural Technologization in the 20th century), presenting the most recent results of the BMBF funded research association “The Language of Biofacts. Semantics and Materiality of High-Tech Plants”. Her current project on evidence of technical safety is part of the DFG-funded research group no. 2448 “Practicing Evidence – Evidencing Practice as Socio-epistemic Processes of Negotiation (20th – 21st Century). (https://www.evidenzpraktiken-dfg.tum.de/en/


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