Jürgen Renn

Director (Since 1994)

Dr., Professor, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Jürgen Renn and his group undertake research on the structural changes in systems of knowledge. Their aim is to develop a theoretical understanding of knowledge evolution, taking into account its epistemic, social, and material dimensions. As groundwork for such a theoretical approach to the history of knowledge, he has been studying some of the great transformations of systems of physical knowledge, such as the origin of theoretical science in antiquity, the emergence of classical mechanics in the early modern period, and the revolutions of modern physics in the early twentieth century. In addition to this longitudinal perspective on the evolution of knowledge, he and his collaborators have developed a transversal approach, studying dissemination and transformation processes of knowledge across cultural boundaries, as well as processes of globalization and the historical origins and co-evolutionary dynamics leading into the Anthropocene.

An early pioneer of the Digital Humanities and the Open Access Movement, he is a co-initiator of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities launched by the MPG in 2003 and, together with his colleagues, has created the Edition Open Access platform for open access publication. He has also been responsible for numerous major exhibitions on the history of science, from Albert Einstein–Chief Engineer of the Universe, Archimede – Arte e scienza dell’invenzione, to Leonardo’s Intellectual Cosmos

Jürgen Renn is honorary professor for History of Science at both the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Freie Universität Berlin. He has taught at Boston University, at the ETH in Zurich, and at the University of Tel Aviv. He has held visiting positions in Vienna, Bergamo, Pavia, and at CalTech. He is a member of the Leopoldina as well as of further national and international scientific and editorial boards. In 2011 he won the Premio Anassilaos International. In 2014, he won the ESHS Neuenschwander Prize and the Premio Internazionale Marco & Alberto Ippolito and was awarded the Max Planck Communitas Award and the Francis Bacon Award. In 2019 he was elected member of the German Archeological Society and in 2021 a foreign associate for mathematics, physical and natural science at the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arte in Venice. From 2017–2019, Jürgen Renn served as Chairperson of the Humanities Sciences Section of the Max Planck Society. His book The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene  was published in 2020 with Princeton University Press, and has since appeared in a number of foreign-language editions (2022: SuhrkampCarocci editore, Les Belles Lettres). Jürgen Renn was recently awarded the 2022 Abraham Pais Prize for the History of Physics.

In June 2022, Jürgen Renn became founding director of the newly established Max Planck Institute of Geoanthroplogy in Jena (MPIGEA). 


Anthropocene Curriculum


Atlas of Innovations


Berlin Institute for the Foundations of Learning and Data (BIFOLD)




Epistemic Configurations: The Formation of Anthropocene Knowledge




History and Foundations of Quantum Field Theory


IV. Anthropocene Formations


Leonardos intellektueller Kosmos in der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, 11. Mai bis 17. Juli 2021


Albert Einstein—Chief Engineer of the Universe (Exhibition 2005)


Continuity and Epistemic Developments of Astronomical Knowledge in the Longue Durée: The Sphaera-tradition


Convivencia. Iberian to Global Dynamics (500–1750)


Development of Mechanical Knowledge in China


Early Modern Mechanics: Benedetti


Knowledge as a Fellow Traveler


Knowledge of Astronomy and the Invention of the Telescope: International Year of Astronomy 2009


Selected Publications

Gutfreund, Hanoch and Jürgen Renn (2022). Einstein über Einstein: autobiographische und wissenschaftliche Reflexionen. Berlin: De Gruyter.

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Renn, Jürgen (2022). L’Évolution de la connaissance: repenser la science pour l’Anthropocène, Translator Raymond Clarinard. Paris: Les Belles Lettes.

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Renn, Jürgen and Nuccio Ordine (2022). “Une science moins utile, plus humaine: de l’intérêt d’un bilinguisme culturel.” In Science si humaine, 94–97. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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Creutzig, Felix, Daron Acemoglu, Xuemei Bai, Paul N. Edwards, Marie Josefine Hintz, Lynn H. Kaack, Siir Kilkis, Stefanie Kunkel, Amy Luers, Nikola Milojevic-Dupont, Dave Rejeski, Jürgen Renn, David Rolnick, Christoph Rosol, Daniela Russ, Thomas…

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Selected Media

Feature Stories

Selected Books

News & Press

The Science Year 2023 celebrates its grand opening


Jürgen Renn talks with Nuccio Ordine on Les Belles Lettres about the acceleration of scientific processes


Jürgen Renn and the Anthropocene Working Group in Süddeutsche Zeitung


Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

Why knowledge is no resource

Knowledge and Its Resources: Historical Reciprocities

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin und Technische Universität Berlin

Introduction by Jürgen Renn

Digitalization and sustainability

Symposium Scientific Council

Moderation at the Workshop Epistemology and "Fake News"

Köln, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies

What drives the Great Acceleration

Mathematical Concepts in the Sciences and Humanities

Jostfest at Leibniz-Saal, Leipzig

A History of Astrophysics in the Max Planck Society with Luisa Bonolis and Roberto Lalli

Genzelfest im Schloss Ringberg

Welcome Speech at Elkana Forum

The Future of Science - Disciplines in Disarray

Harnack House, Berlin 

Reading of The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science in the Anthropocene

Harvard Science Book Talks