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 to Archimede. Arte e scienza dell’invenzione. 
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. From 2017–2019, Jürgen Renn served as Chairperson of the Humanities Sciences Section of the Max Planck Society. His most recent publication is The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene (2020, Princeton University Press).


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


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


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


Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, May 11 to July 17, 2021


Selected Publications

Renn, Jürgen (2021). “Review of: Simões, Ana and Ana Matilde Sousa: The Global Adventure of Science: Einstein, Eddington and the Eclipse. Lisbon: Chili com Carne 2019.” Centaurus 63 (3): 616–617.

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Klimscha, Florian, Hansjörg Karlsen, Svend Hansen, and Jürgen Renn, eds. (2021). Vom Künstlichen Stein zum durchsichtigen Massenprodukt: Innovationen in der Glastechnik und ihre sozialen Folgen zwischen Bronzezeit und Antike. From Artificial Stone…

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Renn, Jürgen (2021). “Training für weitere Krisen.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, January 18, 2021.

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Renn, Jürgen, Matteo Valleriani, Sabine Hoffmann, and Antonio Becchi, eds. (2021). Leonardos intellektueller Kosmos. Florenz: Giunti.

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Selected Media

Feature Stories

Selected Books

News & Press

Deutschlandfunk on "Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos," climate change, and the Anthropocene


Jürgen Renn, "Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos" featured in Deutschlandfunk radio report


Exhibition "Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos" featured in Der Tagesspiegel


Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

The Anthropocene and the History of Science

CIS, Bologna

Anthropocene and the History of Science

Princeton, Princeton University Press

Anthropocene and the History of Science

Amsterdam, “Zeeman Lecture”

Science in Court Society: Giovan Battista Benedetti’s Diversarum speculationum mathematicarum et physicarum liber

Gargnano, “X Seminario sulla scienza antica e la sua tradizione”

The Anthropocene and the History of Science

Venedig, Universita Ca’ Foscari

Giovanni Battista Benedetti (1530–1590) als Intellektueller am Turiner Hof

Rostock, Tagung der GUW

Das Anthropozän und die Geschichte des Wissens

Berlin, Campus Talks im Roten Salon

Moderation Podiumsdiskussion mit Martin Rees und Sheila Jasanoff

Berlin, Futurium “Visionen für die Wissenschaft”

The Anthropocene and the History of Science

The Anthropocene: Challenging the Disciplines, Universität Wien

Wissenschaftsgeschichte im Anthropozän

Wozu Wissenschaftsgeschichte? Ziele und Wege, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften

The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin: The Anthropocene from a Humanities’ Perspective

Symposium of the Max Planck Society, Havana Cuba

Technologische Innovationen – Chancen und Risiken für Nachhaltigkeit in einer offenen Gesellschaft

Berlin, IASS, Ehrensymposium für Klaus Töpfer, “Demokratie und Nachhaltigkeit”

History of Knowledge in the Anthropocene

FU Berlin, ABV Modul Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft, Vorlesung zu Wissenschaftsgeschichte

Representation, Knowledge, Institutions, and Power

Bergamo, Universität Bergamo

The Formative Years of Relativity

Bologna, Università degli Studi di Bologna

La relation d’Albert Einstein avec Max Planck

Lausanne,“Quand le droit rencontre la relativité Soirée Albert Einstein”

Extended Evolution of Knowledge. The Governance of Innovation Processes. With Manfred Laubichler

Hannover, Seventh International Conference on Integrated History and Philosophy of Science: The Evolution of Knowledge

The Formative Years of Relativity. With Hanoch Gutfreund

Colloque « Einstein au Collège de France »

The Evolution of Knowledge

University of Urbino

Transformations of Energy Systems—Historical Perspectives on the Anthropocene. A New Research Environment within the Max Planck Society

Symposium at the Harnack Haus, Berlin