Visiting Scholar (Jan 2016-Jan 2026)
Gerd Graßhoff has been Professor for History of Ancient Science at the Humboldt-University and director of the Excellence Cluster Topoi since 2010. Graßhoff studied physics, mathematics, philosophy, and the history of natural sciences at the Universities of Bochum, Hamburg, and Oxford, earning his doctorate in Philosophy with a dissertation on the history of the Star Catalogue of Ptolemy ("Die Geschichte des Ptolemäischen Sternenkatalogs. Zur Genesis des Sternenverzeichnisses aus Buch VII und VIII des Almagest"). In 1995, he received his "venia legendi" (habilitation) with a work on the art of scientific discovery (“Die Kunst wissenschaftlichen Entdeckens – Grundzüge einer Theorie epistemischer Systeme“).
Graßhoff has taught at Hamburg University and the University of Bern in Switzerland (1999–2010). He has held visiting positions at the Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, where he collaborated with Otto Neugebauer, and at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv.
Graßhoff’s research covers the history and philosophy of science, from ancient Babylonian time to current science, with a focus on ancient astronomy (Babylonian astronomy, Ptolemy, ancient geography) and its medieval reception leading to the scientific revolution (Copernicus, Kepler). Methodological investigation concerns the evolution of scientific thinking including technological innovation processes and their characteristic development. For his research on the philosophy of scientific discovery, he introduced artificial intelligence approaches of computer discovery systems. The study of the discovery of the urea synthesis by Hans Krebs and Kurt Henseleit showed how new historical knowledge is achieved through step-by-step remodeling of the historical experiment design, causal reasoning and hypothesis generation by the researcher. The computer model was the first that successfully reconstructed a complex scientific discovery and gained hereby new insights into its historical circumstances.
Graßhoff’s recent research focusses on new methods of computational history of science. He studies the use of geometrical knowledge by the craftsmen for making material objects, which has been investigated in the context of architecture (Digital Pantheon Project) and the Ancient Sundials Project. The analysis relies extensively on current tools of digital humanities as deep learning, image recognition and natural language toolkits.
In his research project as Max Planck Fellow (having started April 2016), Graßhoff, together with his group (Olivier Defaux, Malte Vogl), investigates the evolution of textual transmissions and the ancient geography, drawing on algorithmic methods to solve novel, challenging questions in the history of science.
Graßhoff, Gerd and Mohammad Yeghaneh Abkenar (2021). “Text Corpus of Kepler’s Astronomia Nova.” Zenodo, April 16, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5281/ZENODO.4696891.Read More
Graßhoff, Gerd, Florian Kotschka, Liba Taub, Elisabeth Rinner, and Jessica Sum (2021). “Data of Ancient Greek Parapegmata.” Zenodo, February 17, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4545677.Read More
Graßhoff, Gerd (2021). “Technological Innovations.” In Contextualising Ancient Technology: From Archaeological Case Studies Towards a Social Theory of Ancient Innovation Processes, ed. F. Klimscha, S. Hansen, and J. Renn, 11–25. Berlin: Edition…Read More
Graßhoff, Gerd (2020). “Star-Lists from the Babylonians to Ptolemy.” In Hellenistic Astronomy: The Science in its Contexts, ed. A. C. Bowen and F. Rochberg, 240–246. Leiden: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004400566_025.Read More